Thursday, September 14, 2017

50 for 50 day 8: Barking against the dark

This is the eighth of 50 posts celebrating my 50th birthday. You can see the rest here.

I don't remember the first time I stood up for someone else. It might have been when I was eleven or twelve and in summer camp, though I expect it was earlier. Two of the girls in my bunk were refugees from Vietnam and had been sent to the camp by a charitable organization. They were teased by some of the other campers for looking different, for not speaking English, for whatever the reason of the day might have been. The girls had arrived at camp excited and happy; now they flinched and were silent. Their joy had been stolen.

I spoke up. I yelled at the mean kids and eventually publicly confronted the camp manager so he couldn't pretend it wasn't happening. The bullies backed off, the girls began to smile again, and I had two loyal companions who tried to teach me Vietnamese while the rest of my bunk ignored me. I didn't think of it as a big deal, it was just the right thing to do. I still don't think of it as a big deal, it was just the right thing to do, though now I can see that this may not have been usual behavior for an eleven year old.

I have always believed in barking against the dark. When we are silent in the face of evil we become complicit. (Your definition of evil and mine may differ, and that's part of why I support freedom of speech, but that's another post.) I don't practice this perfectly, consistently, or particularly effectively most of the time, but I try.

Have you ever been in a situation where you've seen something upsetting and thought someone should do something about that! I am someone. You are, too. We have voices and can choose how to use them. It may sometimes put us at risk but, personally, there are times when I'd rather be at risk and know I did something than have to live with the knowledge that I shrank back. Much of the time all barking requires is a willingness to not close your eyes and pretend you don't see. It requires not being that camp manager.

I bark in all kinds of ways. Some are direct and confrontational; others are the subtle acknowledgements that yes, there are terrible things, and yes, there are things worth fighting for. Sometimes a bark is momentary break from the friction. It might be a moment of compassion, choosing to listen instead of argue, donating to a cause I believe in, or as simple as pointing out that something makes me uncomfortable. And sometimes I am too tired to bark, so I give myself permission to rest today and bark more tomorrow. I fail all the time. Then I try again when I can.

As I approach 50 I find myself more willing to bark and more willing to not bark, because I know there will be new opportunities tomorrow. I certainly cannot save the world alone, but the world will never move towards justice if we all choose to be silent instead.

How do you bark against the dark? How do you give yourself permission to rest? When did you first speak up? I'd love to know.

(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Replies
    1. You're most welcome. Please keep barking. And feel free to share the post!


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