I will never know what it is like to be a person of color. I will never know how the mother of a black son feels inside as she watches him walk out her door. But, through emotional talks I have had with my friends in that position, I have some appreciation of what they go through when they think about Trayvon Martin. When their heart aches for their own sons and daughters. I will never know what it feels like to wear a hijab, especially in an environment in which you are the ONLY one doing so. I will never know what it is like to be brown in a country with an orange president who maligns the character of those who look something like you; demanding a wall to keep others with brown skin out. Still, stories graciously shared by my Hispanic sisters describing their lives today as well as when they arrived in this country as school aged kids, speaking no English, being placed in classrooms where no students or teachers spoke Spanish, are seared in my soul, giving me some modicum of insight into their lives. Insight I can utilize in order to broach some understanding of the lives of others.
Similarly, if you have never experienced a life threatening illness, despite all the compassion you can summon, you will never know how that REALLY feels. Without being given the diagnosis you will not know what it is like to face each day with a chronic illness. Cancer. Mental health issues. And those of us who ARE dealing with such things, still cannot KNOW what it is like to deal with a disease process different from our own. Further, as we are all unique, even if you are dealing with melanoma right this minute, you will not necessarily know what I have felt on my journey; just as I cannot fully comprehend what you have felt as you endure yours.
I think I understand much of what folks who have been marginalized due to race, creed, or sexual orientation have to say when they speak passionately about the fact that they are not obligated to educate those around them to their experience. Amid such discussions, they often implore folks who are not part of their particular group to educate themselves. Do not call upon them, the marginalized, to do the emotional work and research that those who do not understand where they are coming from need to do for themselves! I get that. I do. No one is obligated to teach me what I do not know. I should not place my ignorance on the shoulders of those who are already carrying more than their fair share of the load. As thinking, empathetic adults, we can and should be able to learn what we need to regarding the plight of others.
Still, we are not born 'knowing'. As a nurse and medical provider, I have spent my life teaching. Teaching parents how to feed and keep their babies safe. How to give medicines I prescribe. How to carry out needed procedures, from basic nasal suctioning to urinary catheterization. Teaching teens how to navigate puberty, bullying, you name it! Similarly, as a person living with melanoma, scars and treatments over the past 16 years, I work to educate and help others by sharing my experiences and research here and on melanoma forums. Knowledge fosters access to needed treatment and health. Knowledge combats fear and prejudice. Knowledge paves the way for compassion. Knowledge is power.
Shared experiences, whether as tangible facts and data or emotional human responses driven by circumstance, bridge the gap between ignorance and understanding, diminish stigma, build connections that allow for empathy and camaraderie rather than hate, fear and anxiety. It is far easier to recoil from that which is unfamiliar than that which has been made known. It is much easier to seek help from the medical community if you see others who have benefited in that way. Knowing what another has encountered while on this therapy or that medication allows the individual to have better conversations with their medical provider and allows their family and friends to support their dear ones in a more explicit way. Real life stories open doors, facilitate access - strengthening those who tell and those who listen.
So while these lovely humans and fellow makers were under no obligation to expand my comprehension of their plight, I am ever so glad they have given of their time, energy and psyche to share a bit of their world with me ~ and you....
Charlie, of Noble and Daughter, has graciously written about mental health struggles several times on her blog, but I found this recent post particularly poignant: Persephone Pants x 2 ... and Mental Health Awareness
Rochelle, of Home Row Fiber Company and her blog, Lucky Lucille, has taught me a great deal about living with ichthyosis and the strength of the human spirit. Check out her post, My Most Favorite WIP and click on the link to her IG story within.
And finally, I recently happened upon "Conversations From Our Days", a podcast hosted by Kate O'Sullivan. Her skill in interviewing without leading, assuming or speaking for her subject is impressive. The story that she facilitated Susan Crawford to tell as a breast cancer survivor here touched chords of my own experience that brought some tears, but simultaneously made me feel less alone.
|Stained glass window by Chagall at the Art Institute of Chicago.|
Sew and live chaotically! And, yes, more lifters tomorrow. ~ les