I SEE YOU are three very powerful words.
Now, allow me to share three powerful stories, that have moved my world.
They don’t even know who I am
I held a creative workshop two years ago for displaced children from Syria. We discussed their various experiences of being away from home, their hopes and dreams. While most shared stories of missing their homes, friends, and toys: one little boy’s pleas spoke to my heart.
“All I want is for people to see me, and stop looking at me through their eyes of seeing me as a refugee. They don’t even know who I am.”
I had tears in my eyes and composed myself so that he would not notice. But this little boy simply wanted to be acknowledged, and not seen as a stereotype.
The Other versus One of us
The second story relates to my own experience of exchange with a little girl, whom I noticed staring at me, while I was taking a walk. She then asked me why my skin colour was so dark and I shared with her a story that my mother told with me when I was a child, trying to make sense of the world. I told her that people come in different colours, shapes and sizes much like flowers. Her response moved me: “Does that mean that you are just a normal lady like my Mom?” With my affirmation, she gave me a hug and a smile before running off. That short interaction turned me from “the other” to “one of”.
Atwater and Elis
I recently read a story about the friendship between Ann Atwater, An African American Civil rights activist and C.P. Ellis a former KKK member.
Ellis denounced his racist views and leadership post of the KKK after having had the chance to exchange with Atwater. “We began to talk about what was on our heart, and both of us wept.” Instead of seeing the world through their stereotypical worldview, they realised how much they had in common as individuals with similar values and hopes for themselves and their children. Their interaction and focus on what they had in common changed their entire worldview of the other.
By allowing ourselves to really see someone; we acknowledge them as co-creators of and in this world. We are all shaping the world in which we want for ourselves, children and generations thereafter.
This, acknowledgement, I believe can form a basis towards creating a more peaceful world. As a mother, I have a vision for the type of world in which I would love my children to be raised. That vision is a peaceful one, where we can all feel safe and can flourish. Is it just a silly idealistic non-achievable utopia?
What I do know, is that I have an urge to make my contribution. However small it may be. I do believe that it is necessary to initiate and fuel dialogue to consider broader identities that can embrace others and unify groups; to consider values as a foundation of peace.
So, let us keep our eye on that vision and keep the conversation going.