When I was a little girl, maybe six or seven years old, my family and I visited some relatives in Philadelphia, PA. I was upstairs with my brothers and cousins and developed a nose bleed. I was upset at the sight of blood and went downstairs, running to a relative for help. Upon seeing me, this relative reared back her hand and slapped me hard across the face.
Others at the table where she sat were taken aback by her reaction, as was I. I began crying, and she immediately explained that she thought I had gotten into my aunt’s makeup and had smeared red lipstick all over my face. She didn’t realize I was bleeding, and felt badly about hitting me.
I share this story with you, because I feel we, like this relative of mine, have lost sight of what a cry for help looks like. We aren’t reacting with compassion and a desire to understand, but rather with the same stinging slap I received as a child.
The election of Donald Trump is a cry for help from unemployed, or under employed white rural voters.
Players and band members sitting during the national anthem is a cry for help from people of color who are scared of their loved ones or themselves, dying during a routine traffic stop.
The speech from the cast members of Hamilton was a cry for help, asking our elected officials to acknowledge the racism, religious intolerance and misogyny experienced by our fellow Americans.
Women organizing to march in Washington is a cry for help against unequal pay, unwanted sexual advances and discrimination in the workplace.
Even the alt right, with its desire to develop a white nation state, is a cry for help as white people acknowledge their dwindling role as the majority in our country.
Clearly, there are several citizens who are not feeling a need to cry for help. What race, sex and income group do you feel comprises the safest Americans? If you can guess the answer as easily as I can, maybe we can all at least agree that while there is a percentage of our countrymen doing quite well, there are an awful lot of people who are experiencing a great deal of pain.
Maybe some of those people who are struggling will be sitting around your dining room table this Thanksgiving. Maybe some of them didn’t vote for your candidate. Maybe some of them don’t share your views.
What if, instead of arguing or choosing to ignore each other, we each asked, “how do you feel let down or left out?” “What are your biggest worries?” “What are your biggest fears?” and “What change do you hope to see?”
And perhaps most important of all, “what can I do to help?”
Many of our friends, neighbors and family members are issuing cries for help. What if we lend our ears and listen to them instead of being quick to react and perhaps cause unnecessary pain?