This Is When You Say It’s Going To Be OK

You don’t say it at the start of the conversation.

At the beginning, you listen with your entire being: your heart, your mind, even your bones. You listen without hoping for a loophole or exception to exploit later in the conversation. You turn off the arguing switch in your brain and turn on the compassion switch. You fight the urge to blame dramatics, the media, the government, or a few bad eggs. One bad egg is awfully important to the person who just ordered an omelet.

You wait to say it, because even if you’ve never had similar experiences, it’s important to her that you hear her out. You’ve never heard her this worried before, so you fight the urge to interrupt her with quotes best left to embroidered pillows.

You understand now is not the time to talk about the economy or walls or both sides or a choice between awful and terrible or divisiveness or rallying or sucking it up or pouting or tantrums or protests. You stop for a moment, and you understand this conversation has nothing to do with any of that. This conversation is about kinship and kindness. Nothing more and nothing less.

A thought begins to take hold in your mind: you realize you will be ok, but can’t ever promise her that SHE will be ok. No one can. Her reality is different than yours: a large chunk of the population decided people like her didn’t matter. Or at the very least, that our political leaders can now talk about her in any derogatory way they want. And from here on out she is expected to wade through murky waters, guessing which one of her fellow citizens never thought about what that kind of hateful talk meant. Not even once.

And she now has to wade through those waters, making sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make those citizens uncomfortable. Because if she does, she will deserve everything that comes to her. This year has taught her that immediate, public execution is a very real possibility. Her world is scarier now. And your world is not. And there’s not much you can do about that at the moment.

So you promise her what you can: that you will stand with her. You will no longer excuse talk or action that is “-ist” or “-ic” (racist, classist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic). You tell her that you understand that silence equals acceptance and you will no longer be silent. And you will help her find her voice, and demand that her story be told. That this is her country, too. And she deserves the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just like everyone else. And that she may feel alone, but she’s not alone now. And she never will be again.

And this is when you say it’s going to be ok.