Extraordinary Pathways to Hope

Credit: Nick Sheerbart

How’s your heart, darlin?”

My friend Maggie asked me this question during a zoom call on January 4th. I told her that my heart felt drenched, as if I was caught unprepared in a rainstorm.

Then came the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th — a day that will leave a permanent stain on the story of the United States, much like September 11th, November 22nd, and December 7th. I spent the afternoon and evening scrolling through headlines and photographs, feeling the weight of more storms dampening my soul. Sleep did not come easily, so I stayed up until the wee hours in the ensuring days, scrolling through headlines and searching for some good news to lift my spirit. Here’s what I found -

Senators Tammy Duckworth and Jeff Merkley praised the unnamed aides who removed and secured the electoral ballots from the Senate Chamber. “If our capable floor staff hadn’t grabbed them, they would have been burned by the mob,” Sen. Merkley wrote.

Officer Eugene Goodman of the U.S. Capitol Police, faced off a mob with only a baton to protect himself. As the mob ascended the stairs toward the Senate Chamber, Officer Goodman diverted them away from the corridor leading to the Chamber. He didn’t know it at the time, but his action bought crucial time for the Senate Chamber to be secured. Props also to Igor Bobic, a reporter with Huffington Post, who recorded the confrontation.

Rep. Jason Crow, an Army Ranger veteran, stepped into action when he and others were trapped in the balcony of the House Chamber. After helping officers secure the space, he comforted his friend, Rep. Susan Wild. “Unlike Jason, I have never been in combat… thankfully, I had the good fortune of having him with me to bring some sense of calm to the situation.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran who was on the floor of the House Chamber, also stepped into action. He stood on a chair, directing everyone toward the nearest exits. Then he helped colleagues put on their gas masks. Rep. Gallego was among the last people leaving the Chamber. And when members of the press weren’t allowed in the designated safe rooms, Rep. Gallego sheltered them in his office.

Julie Tagen is Chief of Staff to Rep. Jamie Raskin. Mr. Raskin was on the floor when evacuation orders were given. His daughter and son-in-law, Tabitha and Hank, were in the balcony. Upon evacuation, they were also not allowed in the designated safe rooms. Ms. Tagen took Tabitha and Hank to a nearby office where she guarded the door with a fire iron while rioters tried to break in. “I asked her to protect them with her life, and she did,” Rep. Raskin reported.

When Rep. Andy Kim saw the trash-strewn Rotunda, “it just broke, my heart,” he said. “It’s a room that I love so much — it’s the heart of the Capitol, literally the heart of this country. It pained me so much to see it in this condition.” He proceeded to fill six bags of debris from the Rotunda, the National Statuary Hall, and the Capitol crypt, before heading to chamber to cast his vote.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity as a son of immigrants to be able to serve in Congress,” Rep. Kim said. “Democracy to me is this place of opportunity that is affording me a chance to do something extraordinary.”

These stories inspired me to redirect my fear, hate, and othering into something extraordinary. Instead of unfriending my Trump-supporting relatives, friends, and colleagues, I reached out to a few of them, knowing that they too were suffering over the events of the past couple of days and weeks.

“How’s your heart?” I asked.

Although we were physically separated, I could feel our bodies relax, and our spirits opening to engage in an honest, even if painful, conversation about our beliefs, how we got here, and what we might do to heal ourselves and each other. We left the conversation wishing each other well, and promising to stay connected.

Through these connections and stories, I found a path forward. The sky cleared and I found glimmers of hope. When I asked “how’s your heart,” my heart opened as well. Together, we took a chance and reached out. Keeping one’s heart open in these times may seem like an extraordinary act. And yet, it is the simplest and most direct pathway to hope.

Questions for Reflection and Consideration

1. What is one extraordinary thing you can to do in your community to build a bridge or be a bridge?

2. What are your regular sources of media? Do their headlines and photos promote fear or hope? Othering or belonging?

3. If you are looking for a good source of positive news and solutions, checkout Yes! Magazine

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A cultural translator and racial healing practitioner, Kevin works to weave people and possibilities to cultivate communities of belonging — www.kahakulei.com