This poem was written by Nicole Jenkins, a former Pathways to Social Justice participant. I am the woman on the right, one of our conference coordinators, Sue Fletcher, is in the middle, and Aurelia, a fellow English teacher from down the road, is on the left. Can you tell which of us is the perpetrator, the bystander, and the victim? Can you tell that I must have used up a whole box of tissues that week? We must have practiced this delivery for at least an hour.
Pathways to Social Justice: it sounds inspiring, right? A six day journey into identity, into connecting my broken piece of soul with those who were once strangers. Since I often find writing to be a way to gather my thoughts and hold them close, to make the intangible visible, this blog post is dedicated to some of the wisdom I learned.
Rather than a long post, where I might trivialize the power of what I learned, here are my takeaways:
- We must make connections to show the complexity of the story that everyone has, and without a deeper understanding of self, no connections can be accomplished.
- A mosaic is made up of broken pieces that must be carefully fit together, much like a learning environment.
- The edges of each mosaic piece holds its own jagged pain, which cannot be compared the pain of others. Pain is pain; you cannot compare it to say which is worse.
- Empathy is taking steps to alleviate the pain of others, to imagine yourself in their skin, and be moved to action. Sympathy is merely pity for others.
- A story is transformed when begun at different points. Better to acknowledge that Jews are more than victims, Africans more than slaves, and Native Americans more than casinos.
- Vast numbers are incomprehensible; we must put a face on tragedy to make it tangible, and wherever possible, meet face to face to learn the stories of others.
- Focus on life, on story, on connecting to others, rather than tragedy and sorrow. When we feel connected, we are moved to make a difference.
- We are not merely good or evil; we are a cloudy mixture of both.
- Humanity is flawed, and we must deal with it the best way we can.
I found this week exhausting, invigorating, inspiring, and life affirming. My thanks to Sue Fletcher and Rose Sansalone, who led this amazing week, and to the Memorial Library for making it possible. If you’d like to spend a week that will echo in your life for a long time afterwards, see this site: The Memorial Library.