The first, “The Other Side of My Window,” is about how little acts of kindness in everyday practice makes for peace. The essay was written for the Patheos Public Square Best Practices for Peace in 2015. I’m honored to have had the chance to participate on such a panel, and I valued the opportunity to reflect on these topics. We often hear about microaggressions and how little acts of meanness can erode a soul. I wanted to explore the impact of microkindess, particularly when our circumstances challenge us to seek empathy and compassion with marginalized communities (in my case, the poor and mentally ill). Here is an excerpt, and click here to read the full essay:
Poverty is mouth stench. It is the smell that comes from never having the luxury of consistent dental treatment. Poverty is rotting teeth and untreated sinus infections and processed food diets. The smell of decay hovers in the air and management now wants me to keep a tally of how many people appear in front of my window every day, how long I spend with them, and document every moment of my time so they can quantify my value.
I am expected turn people and their deep poverty into a statistic, a billable service, and the sum of all of these parts is dehumanizing. Dysfunction seeps into everything; I work in a punitive environment where the poorest and weakest are punished the most.
This is a metaphor for the world.
I hate what I am becoming here, on this side of the glass. I hate what the world looks like these days, a landscape of blood sticky atrocities. I do not want to be part of dysfunction, of the brokenness. There are those who turn local poverty and mental illness, Iraq and Syria and Peshawar and dead black boys into academic exercises rather than events hurt the heart, that begs for the excavation of kindness.
I feel trapped words in my throat wanting to rebel against the world’s rage.
Yet, maybe there is no need for me to speak. Perhaps I’ll just observe and let someone else’s stories touch my skin.
By that time, my marriage was floundering in a gap shaped by three years of living in two different spheres of the world: my husband was in Sudan managing the split of one country into two. I lived in a posh part of a small Southern city managing the stepchildren. In this absence, I had published my first book and coddled my demons with less frequency. Writing meant that I could finally taste my voice, and it traveled down my throat like exquisite cardamom-spiced coffee. The parched nature of my soul, and my subsequent hunger, felt frightening.