The Woman in the Mirror by Melissa Rosella

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I drove by the original spot that I last saw Jennifer on our way to the park. She was not there. The clear 2 liter soda water bottle that I’d given her the day before, remained. I wondered where she’d gone. She had set up camp in front of a local business. That never ever lasted long. She always got booted.

I saw Jennifer just a few days ago when I dropped the kids off at school. She was walking her bike ever so slowly across the canal bridge. The red and white polka dotted bag of treats that I had gifted her weeks ago remained neatly tied to her handlebars. I wondered if there was anything inside for her and her husband to eat. I smiled when I saw the bag, as it was a reminder of the joy I felt putting the bag of necessities together. Jennifer sported a warmer coat and I was thankful because mornings in AZ. can be chilly.
The kids and I spent our day at the park riding bikes, blowing and popping big bubbles, making friends over sidewalk chalk doodles, and stomping up and down the slide while giggling. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fun of happy moments and warm sunshine, we forget to eat. We made our way to the 56th Street Deli and I got a feeling that I needed to get Jennifer and her husband food.

I asked my owner friend if he remembered what Jennifer preferred for lunch. He mentioned her lack of teeth and that egg salad with tomato was her favorite. I knew they were resting in the park down the street. I wondered what they were going to do with their day. I packed up the sandwiches and hopped in the car. I told Hope and James we were going to find our friends. We drove to the park and I noticed Jennifer’s husband and Duncan, their dog, laying down on a dirty blanket. Jennifer was not in sight.

I put my hazards on and told the kids I’d be back in a jiffy. I tiptoed to their blanket and Duncan was wide awake. I placed the gatorades, waters, potato chips, and egg salad sandwiches next to Jennifer’s fast asleep husband, careful not to wake him. I walked back to my car and just before I opened my driver side door, I heard a man in a van behind me.

“I saw what you did. That was cool of you.” I spoke with the man and he said being homeless is so hard and I told him I couldn’t even begin to understand what it must be like and he said, “Yep, I reckon you’ve never been in that position.” I hung my head and he continued, “You are what makes America great, ya know?” It’s true,  we are here to be of service to others. We must look for ways to help others every single day.

I got to thinking of all the things that people do when no one is watching at all. We lost Prince this year and I read story after story after story of him paying people’s bills, anonymously. He gave so much money to charity and made people promise not to tell a soul. To give with zero expectation is a beautiful thing. We lost my crush, George Michael, this year, too. I read story after story after story of his generous heart and giving spirit. So many people have come out of the woodwork to talk about his huge heart. He gave without expecting a single thing in return. What beautiful hearts they both had. No one knew because they didn’t want them to. They gave without a second thought or glance. They saw unmet needs and gave because they simply had the means to do so. If we could just give a little, we could help a lot.

I drove around on the prowl for my friend, Jennifer, so I could tell her she could stop looking for her next meal and could rest her head. I was concerned that the egg salad would rot in the sun. I drove up and down the usual routes and I could not find her. Hope piped, “Mama, maybe she found a job and is working like dad.”God Bless You, Hope. I sure hope you are right.

Weeks ago, I was telling my husband about the stupid immigration ban that Trump was attempting to pass and how unbelievably sad it made me to hear of people being stranded  from their loved ones, unable to get home. I was angry and pissed and hurt and annoyed. Ya know, I’m this white privileged gal that is lucky to have been born here and isn’t that fucking convenient? Do you know how many people are scared out of their minds? Scared shitless of their futures and the futures of their children? If I think too much about it, I want to throw up. I was telling Brian all about the ban and how I wanted to do something. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to write my local government. I wanted to call up Trump and tell him he was wrong. I came across a prewritten ensemble via Facebook. It was a petition of sorts that you could sign and pass along. I was telling B all about how I’d signed it and maybe it made a small change. He shook his head and said that my one signature could not possibly make a change in this big big world. With tears in my eyes, I blurted out, “I disagree.”

My signature is a teeny tiny change, it’s a step, a small step, but it is a step in the right direction. & when I post that petition to my Facebook profile & urge others to sign it, too, I am making a change. My 1300 friends will see it and then they will sign it and post it again and again and again and again. & maybe I’m not saving the whole world, but I’m making a small mark, a pin mark, and I’m saying that this immigration bullshit is wrong.

I want my kids to know they are heard, that their voice, however quiet or loud, however mighty or tiny, matters. It is heard and it does make a mark. It creates a ripple effect. One person makes a ripple of change, the ripple continues, the ripple turns into a wave, the wave turns into a movement, & this movement shifts the whole entire world.

So don’t for one single gosh darn second think your voice does not count, that your vote does not make a difference, that you don’t make a mark in this big huge gigantic world. Stand up for what you believe in. Make your mark.

Don’t you dare turn your head and choose not to SEE what the world is up against because it’s not what you want to see or hear. Face it and do something about it.

It would be easy for me, a white gal from Oklahoma, to not look at what is going on in the world, to live in my itty bitty teeny tiny world of white privilege, and pretend all is well, but it’s not. As long as others do not have the same freedoms as I do, I will not rest and I will not relax. We all deserve to be loved and respected and cared for and honored and heard and seen and empathized with. I can’t just stand on the sidelines and not make a change or add my voice or make my mark. Don’t you see that WE are the voice of ALL or WE are the voice of NONE? It matters. Every single human life matters.

We say nothing and nothing changes.
We turn our heads the other direction and nothing changes.
We can’t unsee & ignore the world because it makes us uncomfortable.
We are either part of the problem OR part of the solution.

To choose to turn the other way, to choose to not KNOW what is going on, to choose not to SEE what the world is up against, is to choose to remain silent and compliant of the existing ways of the world. We are saying it is ok. Choosing to remain silent is part of the problem. Complacency will not change the world. Being compliant will not shift the world to be a better place. Stand up. Be strong. Fight.

Make your voice known and heard and make a point to absolutely know what is going on in the world. & do something every single day to make the world a better place by paying it forward: feed the homeless, talk to someone that is lonely, pay for someone’s coffee, & sign a petition that matters to you. My signature mattered. They all mattered. A judge freaking lifted Trump’s ban. Our voices were heard. ONE voice is ALL our voices.

Break down the barriers.
Tear down the fences.
Stop pushing out. Begin pulling in.

Stop pushing away. Begin leaning in.

Push down the walls. Open your hearts.

Build bridges. Find ways to help others build bridges.

& please do not tell your kids that their voice, however small or big, does not matter. ALL our voices matter. Every single person matters.

My babysitter was talking to me today and Hope kept interrupting. I stopped her and said this, “Morgan’s voice counts, she is trying to tell me something. She matters. You matter, too, but you don’t matter more than Morgan. I’m trying to talk to my friend and when I’m done, you may share what you’d like with me and we’ll listen.” Hope stopped interrupting and waited.

The other day, I woke up at 4:30 and puked my guts out, exorcist style. Stomach poisoning is awful. On my way to drop the kids off at preschool, I pulled into Starbuck’s to get a coffee because we were out and I can’t function without it. I said this to the kids, “I spent all morning throwing up and mommy feels awful and I absolutely have to have my coffee.” Hope pipes, “Mom, I want a cake pop and why do we always have to go to Starbuck’s for you?”

I stopped the car, turned around and said, “When someone tells you they are sick and they don’t feel well, you try to think of how they might be feeling. You meet them with empathy. So, you say: Mom, I’m so sorry you are not feeling well, I hope you feel better soon. That is called empathy, Hope, and you need to try to imagine how mom must be feeling right now. You must always be empathetic with everyone.”

I made her repeat this, “Mom, I’m really sorry you are not feeling well and I hope you feel better.” I made James repeat it, too. I am going to model it until my lips and tongue fall off.

Hope came into our bedroom a few days after our empathy lesson, leaned in and whispered, “Mom, I’m really sorry you don’t feel well. I hope you feel better soon.” My heart melted.

My kids are going to be empathizers. I may do a million and one things wrong with their upbringing, but gosh darn it, they are going to know how to empathize with the homeless, the sick, the lonely, the cold, the broken, the broken-spirited, and everyone in between.

1. I want our children to be brave for those that do not know how to be brave.
2. I want our children to be the voice for the silently suffering.
3. I want our children to stand up for what is right even if they are standing alone.
4. I want our children to leave their mark on the world.
5. We will not ask what our children will be when they grow up, but rather how they will make the world a better place as a grown up.

We are raising  and creating bridge builders, includers, lovers of all people, supporters and embracers of the LGBT community, everyone from all walks of life that have great stories to tell, and people from places all over the Earth. We exclude no one.

Love is love is love is love.

To LOVE one is to love ALL.

May you know LOVE,

radiate LOVE,

and be LOVED.

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