My dreams are not big or luxurious. I dream of a world where I can walk into a shopping mall, a movie theater, a school, or even my own place of work and not worry about an irate person carrying a weapon and a vendetta inside, hoping to make the nightly news in their final blaze of glory. I dream of a world where I do not have to listen and watch my surroundings as I walk to my car, searching for a hidden threat. I dream of a world where I can turn on the news and not hear about another bombing, another attack, another murder; more death, more pain, more heartache. I dream of a world where the length of my skirt does not measure my worth or the level of respect others give me. I dream of a world where no means no. I dream of a world where the color of your skin or your nation of origin is a mere cliff-note, and not the cover of your book, to be judged and tossed away. I dream of a world where a helping hand is a given, not a political opporitunity to stand on a soap box and point fingers. I dream of a world where someone asks you how you are doing- and waits to hear the answer. I dream of a world full of common courtesy and, dare I say, compassion.
I know that these ideals are the simplest and most complex wishes a person can have. Their solutions seem so straightforward, a child could figure it out, could see the flaws in our system. But alas, we are not children, and we have shaded this world is colors that they cannot see. We forgot the lessons our parents taught us when we were small; perhaps they forgot them too. We always say that the world is just too complicated- but perhaps we are the ones making it that way.
We tell ourselves that we are just one person, and as such, we cannot make a difference. But we are diluting ourselves, pointing the finger at anyone else, anyone but us. Because taking responsibility is not in our nature. We are just one person- we did not make the world turn into such an ugly place, we just live in it. It’s a cop out, an escape hatch, a way to turn the other cheek. If we want to see a change, we have to start small, we have to take a long look inside and realize the type of people that we have become. We have to recognize our biases and prejudices, those knee-jerk thoughts and judgments that come to us without thought. We are not saints, we all have them, we have too many life experiences not to. But that doesn’t make them right.
It starts with instrospection, with self-awareness, with a realization of why we are the way that we are. It builds with a change; with a simple respect, with that age-old piece of wisdom: treat others as you wish to be treated. It crescendos into action; in speaking up for someone without a voice, in asking how they are, in reaching our your hand to pull someone else in.
The world may be a dark place sometimes, but we do not have to dress to match. We do not have to change, to become bitter imbattled versions of those bright happy people we once were. The world may be a complicated place, but we do not have to be. Kindness begets kindness, a smile is more often met with a smile. A soft word is more respected than a harsh one.
I am not naïve, I know that my dreams will probably always remain dreams. I know that I will continue to reverently walk by the memorial in a mall near my home where three people lost their lives in a shooting four years ago. I know I’ll always wonder if the other shoe will drop, if I’ll find myself in the same position, running from the sounds of a rifle in what should be a safe place. I know my heart will ache every time I hear about another active shooter, another bombing, another death. I know that I will cry interally everytime I am in a room and people are asked to raise their hands if they have been a victim of sexual assault or rape. Because all too often there are more hands up in the air than those laying flat. I know that I will always walk briskly to my car, ears listening for footfalls that come too close, eyes scanning for suspicious people or vehicles, fingers gripped tightly around my keys- just in case. I know that I will always dress in a certain way to keep people from staring, to keep them from talking. I will avoid certain situations because trust is a hard commodity to find.
But I wont stop dreaming about a world where these do not have to be my realities. I will continue to find hope in those few people who ask me how I am doing and wait to hear the answer. I will find comfort in the smiles of a stranger. I will keep speaking my mind when it matters, and listening when someone needs to talk. I will keep trying. I will keep hoping, I will keep dreaming. Because some dreams are too important to let die.