No two people have the exact same experience. Even though two people may witness the exact same event at the exact same time, there could be two totally different interpretations of the event. Past experiences shape a person’s understanding of current events. These same past experiences, as well as factors that an individual has absolutely no control over compile into various realities in the same space.
I recently had a conversation with a woman that progressed into her understanding of relativism as it pertains to religious practices, faith journeys, and the role of religious beliefs in moral and ethical situations. She and I didn’t necessarily agree on many aspects of the conversation, which at the time infuriated me; after a few days of reflection, I realized the reason she and I could not see eye-to-eye was because our worlds that we live in are conflicting. My perspective is that she has been fairly sheltered to some of the things in the world; yet, the same argument could be made about me depending on with whom I am conversing.
I like to think I’m a realist. I have a decent grasp of a lot of the social injustices I witness regularly, and I am enraged by how saturated our society is with systems that perpetuate those injustices. I know that my US American experiences (and my relationships with the systems that perpetuate injustices) are not the norm in US America.
Multiple realities exist. It is only with the acknowledgement that contending realities are valid, can there be progress.
63rd Street and Woodlawn. An intersection that I am not likely to ever forget.
This morning my fellow YAV’s and I embarked on an observation tour of the Southside of Chicago. Basically we got on a bus and stayed until we were well past the White Sox stadium. After we got off our second bus, we started walking through the edges of Hyde Park, and that’s when I saw it. A man of color started to collapse on his wife, and when I went over to inquire I realized this man was NOT okay. I introduced myself as a First Responder and asked if I could do a Primary and Secondary Assessment so once the EMTs arrived on scene the process would be streamlined.
By this point a small crowd of varying demographics had started to form. A couple of police cars drove by, to ask MY (predominately white, obviously middle class) group what was going on, not even acknowledging the crowd of people of color surrounding Daniel, and not even bothering to get out of their car to check the scene on their own. It wasn’t until an officer finally got OUT of his car to talk to me did he realize he should probably radio an ambulance.
Because of the intersection, because of the demographics of that neighborhood, there was no sense of urgency for this medical emergency. Daniel was around 65, and his symptoms indicated a stroke. And because we were in a neighborhood occupied by people of color, a bystander was on the phone with 911 for 20 minutes before the ambulance was even summoned…
My heart aches.
“You see the top of the schedule where it says ‘Orientation’ mark it out and write ‘Disorientation.'” These were the first words I heard at Stony Point Conference Center in Stony Point, New York. More truer words could not have been spoken. During (dis)orientation myself and 66 other YAVs were forced to sit in some discomfort, literally and figuratively (seriously! sitting in straight-backed chairs for 12 hours is not comfortable!). The figurative discomfort was more because of the tough conversations that had to be had. And while those conversations were incredibly important, the thing that sticks out most to me was the development of community.
One of the core tenets of YAV is living in intentional community with one another. Logistically that translates how to live with different people in different environments and not absolutely hate each other at the end of the year. But there is more to developing community than just hanging out with your housemates. I’m talking about developing relationships with other YAVs outside of our site. There are close to 70 Young Adult Volunteers serving this year, so being able to create friendships outside of my site is crucial. It is inevitable that at some point this year I am going to need to talk to someone who is not in my house, but understands what I am going through; I have those connections post-Stony Point.