The people that lived in this apartment before us were Jewish. We’ve figured this out as we found scattered artifacts of their lives during our renovation process. Mezuzahs adorning the door frames and photos of children wearing yarmulkes left behind in the kitchen cupboards. I don’t know anything about those people- but I assume they made food in the kitchen, watched TV in the living room, and slept in the bedroom. I don’t know what their kids hated eating, or what they did to celebrate- but I know that they were people, that they lived here before me, and that they wanted to feel safe at home. It seems so simple. But it feels very far away from the here and now.
We’re all afraid. For different reasons but the reaction is the same. Maybe it’s immigrants, the police, the protestors, or the president. It doesn’t matter- the fact is that the only thing that unites us our anger and fear. We’re all feeling unsafe, in our homes, in our communities, and in our future.
Our homes are supposed to provide safety. We built them out of rock, mud, and wood before we developed masonry, concrete, and plaster. We evolved from being a nomadic species to an agricultural one. We wanted to stay put, build roots, and become more connected to one and another- for safety and prosperity.
How easily we forget that someone else has stood here before us, and that those people too- ate, slept, played, fought, and dreamed. They complained about how much money they made, and they forgot to buy that one crucial item at the grocery. That’s humanity. We are so fundamentally similar- yet when we disagree with each other, and don’t understand each other, we forget these basic facts.
This is what scare me the most, this is how we forget that each other is human.
We’re all plagued by our biases and our desire to be around “likeminded individuals”. It’s easier, it feels safer, and it allows us to fixate on our own problems. However, by doing this we rob ourselves of the richness of our differences and remain narrow and fearful of those we do not understand. It’s a life without trying new things and accepting that you have things to learn.
I get scared of speaking out.
I don’t want people to get upset when I disagree with them and I don’t want to draw attention to myself. Socialization and privilege has made me a peacemaker and not a shit disturber by nature. I’m ashamed to admit this but it’s definitely true. I get to hide behind my curtain of privilege and I can speak out when I want to- no ones going to push me or expect anything else from me. I’m a white woman.
So I can talk about houses- about paint colors and floor plans but it’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about the people that lived in this house before me, I’m thinking about my neighbors, and I’m thinking about the country- and I’m doing my best to be less afraid but its hard. My fear isn’t of others but rather it’s of speaking out- and that’s just as poisoned, small minded, and dangerous.
Our voices are needed. It’s time to find them.
- Open your doors and let others in.
- Say hello to your neighbors.
- Start a conversation that you know will be hard.
- Practice compassion.
- Talk to someone you disagree with.
- Explore something you don’t understand.
- Speak up.
Remember that we all struggle but that some struggle more, and our voices can amplify theirs. It’s our job to help others feel safe, and if we can’t feel safe we’ve all already lost our homes. Paint colors won’t matter anymore if we just stay inside to shut the world out.
Someone else brushed their teeth where you lived, they applied for jobs, they got sick, and called out sick when they weren’t. They put mezuzahs on the door and made lunches for their kids. They wanted to feel safe, understood, and respected. You’re more similar than you think you are. Remember that.