“I was on a train on a rainy day. The train was slowing down to pull into a station. For some reason, I became intent on watching the raindrops on the window. The separate drops, pushed by the wind, merged into one for a moment and then divided again–each carrying with it part of the other. Simply by that momentary touching, neither was what it had been before. And as each one went on to touch other raindrops, it shared not only itself, but what it had gleaned from the other. I saw this metaphor many years ago and it is one of my most vivid memories. I realized then that e never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace. Our state of being matters to those around us, so we need to become conscious of what we unintentionally share so we can learn to share with intention.”
–Peggy Tabor Millin in Mary’s Way
It came to my attention, recently, that I am often unaware of the impact that I have on others. I am occupied with my own day to day shenanigans. The busyness of being a mom, wife, daughter, facilitator, garden tender, yoga teacher; the busyness of life. Like most folks, I don’t think about my impact unless I have done something that has been pointed out as terrible.
About a month ago a former class mate contacted me to discuss a project that we had participated in during high school. It was a jury selection project that our government teacher crafted.
I went to one of those project based learn schools. It is in Grand Rapids, MI, called City High Middle School. We spent a lot of time creating projects to help us learn concepts. Our jury selection project was one of those. We talked about policy, you know like, jury of peers. We discussed population and statistics, what an ideal jury would look like, taking into consideration the percentage of people not allowed to serve for a number of reason–felony charges, age, sickness, folks that would decline due to health or caring for a child or elder. The pool that we developed did not, in any way, reflect the pool that we often saw as juries in our county. I ask the simple question of why. Mr. Bentley, our government and calculus teacher, tried his best to explain. We moved on, I graduated.
When my former classmate contacted me, it was to ask if I remembered the project and how it blossomed into a multi-year study, something that a whole generation of City students worked on. A project that ultimately made it’s way all the way to the Supreme Court. I didn’t know, but it prompted me to ask other questions. What I found out was that simply asking why the jury didn’t reflect peers or even a statistic pool of the county, led my teacher to ask the same question over and over again, taking it to the highest US court. He credited me with starting the project.
One moment in one semester had turned into a decade of inquiry and I had no idea.
I started to think about all the ways we operate on auto-pilot, never knowing what impact our glance or words will have on another.
What if in our quest for equity we also practiced intentionality?
What if awareness of our own actions took as much focus as the awareness of others intent and impact?
How might we change the way we interact with one another?