"The word evolution means change, something turning into something else. It happens all the time." - Ursula LeGuin
I had insomnia the other night. It happens. In the state of not sleeping – a wide awakeness that meditation wasn’t going to touch – I put down my book and checked my Twitter feed. Then I clicked on something.
It was the briefest of news items. 9 year old Omaree Varela called 911. The operator heard a woman and a man berating the boy, as he cried, telling him he deserved far more abuse than what they had just given him.
Six months later, he is dead.
I held him in my heart that night. I talked to him. I told him I was so sorry this had happened. So sorry this had been his life. I don’t think he heard me. I was doing it to comfort myself.
When terrible things happen, and we learn of them, we wish there was something we could do to fix the situation.
What happened to Omaree Varela happens all over the world. Daily. Perhaps even each minute. A mile from where I live feels like a killing zone. Families are always mourning. Further away, drones drop bombs on wedding parties. Women and children are raped. Dolphins slaughtered.
This is part of the human condition.
Yet, I have experienced kindness and beauty. I have experienced change.
These are part of the human condition.
I’m not always the kindest person inside. I often feel impatience. Harshness. I was raised by a man who was abused, and who abused us. I was raised by a woman who didn’t know how to stand up to abuse, or how to walk away. It was *never* as bad as Omaree had it. Not one tenth as bad. But it shaped me.
I have healed. I’m not a broken person. Impatient and harsh at times, yes. But not abusive. Not rage filled. Not withdrawn.
Why am I saying this? Because healing is also part of the human condition. Those who tell us things will always be this bad are only looking at the pictures forged in terror and pain. They don’t see the images of life renewed. They don’t see the golden cracks mending the shattered bowls. They have forgotten about beauty.
They don’t know that we can change.
We can change. I’ve seen it in myself, in my mother, in my students, in spiritual direction clients, and in my friends.
I believe we must find ways to heal, and to help one another heal.
Healing starts when we breathe in the smallest amounts of courage or compassion: To speak. To unfold. To ask. To love.
It starts when we take a moment to wonder if the person we are vilifying or cowed by is perhaps in pain. It starts when we talk to our neighbors instead of calling the police. It starts when we offer extra vegetables from the garden. It starts when we learn first aid so we can be of service. It starts by opening a door. It starts by asking, “How may I help you?” It starts by asking how we, ourselves, can find the help we need.
Help didn't come for Omaree in time. But he was right to ask for it. And it doesn't mean the rest of us should give up trying.
We can lay awake all night, and rise again come morning.
We can heal this world. We can take care of one another. We can ask for help.