I Hear You. I See You.

Here’s what I learned from the Women’s March:

1. Everyone has a story to tell.

2. We should listen.

I went to the women’s march in little ol’ Topeka, KS, last Saturday, along with over 3,000 men, women and children. We were a small portion of the total Women’s March attendees worldwide, but we were there. As I scanned the signs in the crowd I got a sense of each person’s motivation for attending. Some people were clearly angry. Some were more sad. Some were there to support a specific cause or people group. And surely some were all three. I was conflicted about going, not because I was against the march, but because I didn’t think this type of event fit me. I am hyper conscious about keeping my word – letting my yes be yes and my no be no. In the things I promise and the things I merely say. And a lot is said by one’s actions. By showing up, or not.

In going to the march, was I supporting everything this crowd was supporting? I knew I wasn’t, so was going a lie? Was it a falsehood to be a body in that place on that day? Those were questions I asked myself before I decided to hitch a ride with my friend, her daughter, and her mother. I had no sign. I had no specific agenda. I went as an observer, a witness, a supporter of equal rights in general.

I’m going to show my hand here: I am pro-life in that I wish abortion wasn’t a thing at all. I am pro-choice in that I think the answer to the problem is much more complicated than making laws. I am conflicted about legislating morality, on either side of the aisle. Because both sides are doing it. Because we all have a set of values from which we move in the world. From which our political stances arise. The Republicans are not the only ones with a moral standard. The Democrats are not the only ones with compassion for the marginalized. Trying to make our society work for both types of people (and for those who don’t fit in either camp) is a complicated task, necessitating compromise. I sit in between the parties as an independent, and marches don’t always speak for those of us on the fence. “Yes, but…” was my most common internal response to the speeches I heard. Or “Yes, and…”

The very best sign I have seen from any march was made by a friend of mine. She was at the same event as me, though I didn’t see here there – only caught a photo of her sign on social media that evening.

It said simply:

I Hear You.

I See You.

I asked her later about the meaning of her sign, and she said it was up for interpretation. My takeaway was that it perfectly summed up why I went to the march – what it was all about it my view – and the attitude which if everyone adopted, no matter his or her political views, would solve so many of our problems. I hear you. I see you.

When my husband and I have an argument, what it almost always comes down to is one or both of us feeling we haven’t been heard. That one or both of our points of view has been passed over as unimportant or wrong. And the best way to diffuse a disagreement is for us to communicate that we’ve taken in the other’s words and considered them. That what was said wasn’t worthless or silly. Eye contact is key. Body language that communicates empathy instead of disgust.

For me, going to the march was saying with my presence, “I hear and see you” to all the people who feel left out. I, myself, don’t feel that way. I have had it pretty easy as a white, straight, middle class girl/woman in America. I am not particularly angry for me. But as another sign said “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem for you personally.” That’s where listening comes in.

The whole idea of a march is to be heard. To be a squeaky wheel for a people or a cause. The problem right now is that so many groups of people were belittled during the campaign that the squeaky wheels are all over the road. The list of speakers at Saturday’s event was long, because numerous groups were being represented. So many people felt blatantly attacked by the man who is now the President that the anger and fear is widespread. And to just say “hush” to all those people is both unkind and foolish. Just as preaching to the choir does little to help further a cause, shushing the other side does a lot to embolden it.

This goes both ways. The conservatives need to hear what the liberals are saying/the liberals need to hear what the conservatives are saying. And both sides should say things in a positive way – not just because it’s kind, but because it’s smart. I doubt a single conservative was moved to a new understanding by the sign “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Translation = Bitches Be Crazy!” Nor would a left-leaning person be swayed by the Facebook post on the Women’s March page that read “You guys are a joke.”

As soon as one side won’t listen it feels foolish to listen in return. It’s hard to answer disrespect, condescension, and outright hate with respect and love. Our nature cries “Hey now! Get off my back!” But it is possible. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t move from a place of hate. He moved from anger and frustration, but not from a desire to see harm done to anyone else. He moved from an understanding that God made everyone, and therefore everyone had value.

Even if someone doesn’t believe that basic tenet of human decency, we should ask why. And then we should listen to the answer. Even if the answer makes our skin crawl. Because until we know why, we can’t address the core issue; we can only address the symptoms. Assumptions are no good here. They are the enemy. Not the other political party. Not those who marched or those who didn’t.

If someone is pro-choice, we should ask why. I have friends whose bodies were assaulted in the past, so attempts to legislate their bodies feels violating. I have relatives who likely don’t know a single Muslim person, so they fear what they don’t understand, as we all tend to do. I have friends who came to America, illegally, from Mexico (and Guatemala, and El Salvador) because they or their parents wanted to give their children a chance to escape poverty, or worse. I have friends who are rich, friends who are poor, some who have been both in one lifetime. And I care what each of them has to say. Empathy does not have to mean agreement. It merely says…

I hear you. I see you.


May They Dream Big

Today feels heavy. Like this scarf I’m wearing is full of bricks. But I refuse to let that feeling win.

I say today is a day for dreamers. As our new President is inaugurated, I am choosing hope over fear. Because I must. I want to scream, and maybe I will for a bit, inside my house, as a lamentation of what we have become. But then I will take several deep breaths, let my blood pressure drop a notch, and remember, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Today is a wrenching disappointment for many, but it is not the end.

I say bring on the dreamers.

We had a family double feature last weekend consisting of La La Land and Selma. Two disparate films, but with one important commonality. One is a bittersweet tale of chasing dreams, of fantastical and lovely head-in-the-clouds romanticism. And the other is a hard-to-take portrayal of a different kind of dream, and a struggle that seems so apropos in our current reality. Both are relevant. Both point to the way to handle Right Now.

After the increasingly combative election, and it’s aftermath which we all had hoped would settle the tension but instead ratcheted it up twelve notches, La La Land was like breathing again. The opening scene of joy-despite-obstacles (both literal (an L.A. traffic jam) and metaphorical (breaking into Hollywood)) made me smile so big my face hurt. It was needed, cinematic medicine. It was an escape from reality. But it also touched on deeper questions of dream-chasing. What is sacrificed in the effort? What about when the dream seems to have died?

And when they let you down
You get up off the ground
And it’s another day of sun


Selma is about dream-chasing too, though King’s dream was a loftier, more altruistic vision of the future by far. Clearly. The movie dives down into the grit of those days in Selma, Alabama without a hint of romanticism. King wasn’t a perfect person, and the film doesn’t pretend so. But it shows both his moral and strategic motivations for non-violent protesting. It gives life to that movement that is still so relevant today. Especially today. It was a lot for my younger ones to handle. But it seemed important. It seemed essential, as learning about history always is.

Many of my friends are headed to Washington D.C. this week to participate in the Women’s March. I thought of going but in the end decided against it. For many reasons, none of which is disagreement. Their tangible effort to express a belief in the rights of all those marginalized in our society echoes those of decades earlier. And it echoes my own heart. People are people, we have the same hurts and fears, we all bleed and love our friends and get sad when someone says we don’t count. These truths have been instilled in me since I was a child and I hold on to them today.

I go back and forth in my mind about how to handle our current reality in America. About what exactly I can and should do. Where my energies will be best spent. How I can be one of the helpers rather than merely a critic of everything I don’t like. How to be for things instead of against them, as a rule. I spend time thinking of this because it matters. Because I want to use my life well. On behalf of others, not just myself. But how to do that is the sometimes overwhelming question. Especially in the face of big obstacles.

I also believe in picking my battles. Because if everything is a fight with me, eventually nothing I do or say will be taken seriously. If I yell at my kids all the time, the yelling becomes normal and completely ineffective. If I only yell when something really awful is going on, my kids take notice. They feel the importance of the moment, of what I’m yelling about. The same goes for life in general. The squeaky wheel only gets the grease when the squeaking is out of the ordinary. What, then, do I squeak, or yell, about?

One battle I am determined to fight: teaching my children about empathy. It’s a battle of daily decision. Of impressing upon them our equality with everyone else and imagining what it must be like to be that other person. After watching half of Selma the girls were getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth and arguing about who touched whom with lotion on her hands. One felt offended at the other’s (moisturizing) assault. It was the perfect teaching moment.

“Can you imagine what it must have felt like for the people marching for their right to vote? They didn’t even have the power to choose their leaders. And then they were hit and kicked and yelled at. It must have felt awful. And they didn’t fight back; they were peaceful. That must have been so hard.”

They stopped and thought. I watched the wheels turning. They got it, in whatever nine and five year old ways they could. One more step toward an empathetic world view. And one small thing I could do.

Which brings me back to La La Land. Some will surely be angry at my comparison of a movie about privileged, white kids trying to make art, and one about poor, black people fighting for their rights. And if I were saying they were equally important in the span of history, that would be fair. But they’re both about dreams – not letting them die. One can assist the other.

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles…
Here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make


Here’s to my friends marching this weekend in D.C.

And here’s to raising up the next generation of dreamers.

May they dream big.


Inspiration to help the dreaming…

A portion of Dr. King’s “Where Do We Go From Here” speech

Night Has Passed lyric video, The Brilliance