Experiencing, in Christ the healed reality of creation, makes possible the most important lesson about resilience that I have learned through the conflicts of early adolescence:
- I can play a role in supporting the development of resilience in others.
Understanding or making sense of the past is not the most important work of my life. The most important work is living into a fuller more healthy and life-giving present in order that I might support others in making their own journey towards an awareness of the wholeness that is our true nature and the capacity for resilience that accompanies that awareness.
The most significant way I can contribute towards developing resilience, particularly in children, is the “Horton Strategy”.
In Theodore Geisel’s 1954 masterpiece “Horton Hears A Who!”, the mayor of Whoville, in a desperate attempt to save his town seeks to ensure that the voice of every Who in Whoville is heard. But it is not until he finds the smallest resident of Whoville, and releases his voice, that the existence of Whoville is finally revealed and its safety assured. It is only when the Mary discovers Jo-Jo,
“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!” he said
We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
The job of those in power is to use their power to make sure that the voices of the powerless, the “very small, very small” have the chance to be heard. The salvation of the community lies in giving voice to every person.
When I met Detective Ross to discuss the case of historical abuse she is investigating, she explained to me that most victims were only beginning fifty years after their experience to feel free to speak. As children, they were silenced by guilt, shame, fear, and their awareness that adults did not want to hear.
As an adult, I need to acknowledge there are subtle ways in which I silence the smaller quieter voices. I need to make sure I listen carefully for the weaker voices and encourage them to understand that “every voice counts!”
It is an old saying, hopefully seldom espoused in our current context, but when I was a child there was tacit approval of the dictum that “children should be seen and not heard.” We children were to know our place, mind our manners, be quiet, civilized, prim, and proper. We were not to rock the boat. Such expectations are convenient for adults but induce silence in children. They are the ground in which secrets grow, lies thrive, and lives are lost.
To enable every voice to be heard, I need to put aside my agenda, needs, wants, desires, and expectations. I need to have the courage to move beyond my own potential discomfort and open to those voices that may feel compelled to keep silent in order to avoid the awkwardness of unpleasant truth.
For children to develop resilience, they need someone at some point in their lives who, like the Mayor of Whoville, encourages them to contribute their voice. I can be that person for some child, but only if I start by genuinely and openly listening.
How do we develop communities in which truth-telling is possible?
How do we nurture relationships where every voice feels encouraged to speak?
Perhaps it begins in part with acknowledging honestly and openly the painful parts of our past and the past realities of our communities: