A few weeks ago I was walking in my neighborhood and from a block or so away I saw a group of people, moms and kids waiting for a school bus. As I got closer, I realized it was a group (a half dozen or so) of Burmese moms and kindergarteners or early grade school children. From a distance I heard them talking and laughing, I saw the kids running around and playing. But as I got closer the group got quiet, the kids stood like statues right beside their moms, all looking at the ground. As I approached the group I noticed one of the moms and a couple of the kids sneak a quick glance at me… I immediately smiled and waved. Instantly the dynamics changed, it seemed almost in unison everyone in their little group smiled big smiles, waved back at me and the chatter and laughter returned.
As I reflected on that experience a couple of thing occurred to me. The moms had discovered their “place” in the community. They had come to realize that they were to be quiet, unseen… that they were valueless, almost invisible. What a tragedy that infinitely valuable, hard working people with incredible God-given talents thinking that they are to be unheard and unseen in our community. It’s a tragedy for them and a tragedy for us. Imagine what we could learn from them… imagine what experience and resilience they could bring to our community. But they are silent and unengaged, not because they have nothing to offer, but because they have come to believe no one is listening, that no one sees them or their value.
I want to live in a community that sees all its neighbors for who they truly are, the way that God sees them… intelligent, talented, creative valuable. I want to be a part of a community that values and leverages the wisdom that comes from diversity of thought, experiences and cultural backgrounds. Is it possible that some our lingering problems exist because a significant portion of our community’s intellectual and creative assets are undervalued, unengaged, unseen and unheard? Its not just refugees that are undervalued in our community… senior citizens, immigrants, young people, long-time neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds often feel unseen and unheard. Our problems are too big, too complicated to have some of best and brightest neighbors sitting invisibly on the sidelines.
What would it take for us to become a catalyst to see the unseen, to properly value the seriously undervalued? Wouldn’t it be great to be a part of a movement to engage those neighbors who have mostly given up on being heard? I want to be a part of a community who brings people together… all people. I want be a part of community that comes together to identify our challenges, that investigates the best approaches and together implements the solutions that solve real problems.
Let’s work together to do that.