By Faith J. Conklin
An office has an answering machine. It instructs callers to leave their name and address, and asks them to spell any difficult words.
One Monday morning an assistant was reviewing the weekend messages. An enthusiastic woman recited her name and address. Then she confidently added, “My difficult word is reconciliation. R-E-C-O-N-C-I-L-I-A-T-I-O-N.”
Reconciliation is a difficult word. It may not be all that hard to spell. It’s most difficult to accomplish. These days it’s also an urgent and necessary word for us to learn and put into practice.
I’ve mentioned before that I belong to a group called, D.O.V.E (Dreaming of a Violence-Free Escondido). We gather whenever an act of violence takes the life of someone who lives in Escondido. We pray, sing, light candles and re-affirm our commitment to changing the systems and attitudes that cause such tragedies to happen.
Several years ago we held a vigil for an eighteen year old young man. Caught in a cycle of gang violence, he’d begun turning his life around. He had a bright and promising future. It all ended when he was shot to death. At his funeral one of his friends spoke. He talked particularly to the parents and adults there. One of the things he told us was this: “Be more loving toward us. We need you to tell us you love us, that you care about us, that you’re proud of us.”
I think of those words a lot lately. I think of them when another one of the youth I know tells me about the “bullying”, “shaming” and “shunning” they face because of their color, their creed, their country of origin, their ability or lack of it or their sexual orientation. I think also of those young persons who bombarded daily by such words and acts are too often driven to despair, addictions and even to taking their own life.
I wonder: Who is telling them how precious they are? Who is celebrating them for who they are? Who is speaking words of love, praise and affirmation to them? Who is listening to their pain, their hopes, their needs and their dreams? Who is speaking out on their behalf?
It also leads me to ask: What kind of models are we adults offering in the way we treat others and the words we say about them, especially those who are different than us? How are we letting these young people and others know that every human being is a gift?
Every one of us has the opportunity to touch the life of others. What mark are we leaving when we do?