This week has had me thinking about an old phrase, so widely used it’s correct attribution is unknown: be kind, because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Of course in my position I often think about this, since one of the honors of doing what I do is that you all are generous enough to trust me with the hard things happening in your lives. And so I have more of a window, perhaps, into those battles.
Recently, though, it seems that the battles are harder. I’m so grateful that many of you are willing to share with me what happens in your lives, and I have noticed a trend: life is difficult right now. Sometimes it’s difficult because of physical illness or loss, sometimes because of the ongoing journey of mental health work, sometimes because of anxiety related to the world around us and very real fears that national policies will affect or are affecting your lives in harmful ways. In the last week, as many of you have participated in the #metoo movement (in which women share experiences of sexual assault and harassment in solidarity with each other), I have been thinking about the trauma that so many of us experience because of the culture around us, the way that systemic oppressions operate to harm us, to add globally to our personal hurt.
So what do we do with all this pain?
Be kind is a start, and an important one. Be real is another. I am deeply grateful that WES can be, for many of you, a place to be real, to bring your pain, your sadness, your worry. This coming Sunday we will hold our annual Remembrance Day during platform. I know many of you have mixed feelings about this tradition–it’s been described to me by more than one person as “the platform I don’t like but am always glad I went to.” During Remembrance Day, we are invited to bring our pain and loss, to honor someone we have lost and wish to remember. And doing that hurts. I get that. Sometimes the loss may truly feel too raw to explore. But I also know that allowing ourselves to open up to the pain can be a way forward…or at least a way to be real. To be honest about the battles we are fighting.
I was blown away by the stories of courage that people shared with each other throughout the month of October, and the stories of sorrow and resilience that you share with me throughout the year. American culture often asks us to pretend that we’re all good, all the time. My deepest hope is that WES is one of the places in your life where you can be real, and where by being real with each other, we all learn to be kind.
Amanda Poppei, Senior Leader