A wee tale of speaking out and of hope

Like many of you, I have my moments–and days–of despair, often fueled by what I see on social media: cruelty, unchecked rumors, hatred, lies. One day I noticed a particularly mean-spirited post on the Facebook page of a woman I had met in real life but didn’t know well. That post was followed by another, equally disturbing. I could not sleep that night, concerned that someone who I had thought to be kind and reasonable now appeared so different. I thought about posting something on her page but that approach seemed unlikely to yield much.Instead, a day or two later, I wrote to her via email. Here is what I said in part:

“Dear xxx: I’ve always enjoyed our talks when we’ve had the occasion to meet in person at xxxs and I truly respect you as an individual for the length and dignity of your career, how you’ve re-made your life (as so many of us have to do after divorce and relocation…), and your warm presence. It is in that spirit of mutuality that I write to you in response to a post that appeared on your Facebook page this week. I’ve been truly troubled by it, and the mean-spiritedness of the statement has weighed heavily on me. [I described the post, which I won’t do here other than to characterize it as without evidence and demeaning.] I was shocked to see that image on your feed, xx, because I regard you as a person who is sensitive to nuance and meaning. I’m choosing to email you personally, rather than respond on Facebook because I don’t have much optimism that people’s minds are changed via social media: it is so rampant with rumor, falsehoods, innuendo, unproven claims,manipulation and so on…fallen far from the original intention to allow people to stay connected.And I do want to stay connected to you. So, I’m writing, but not with an expectation that you will take any particular action. You can choose to write back to me if you wish. You might delete the post; I won’t be checking to see if you do. You may decide to think differently before posting something similar. You may delete this message in anger. But I hope that at least, my heart will ease a bit more tonight, that I’ll sleep better having made an honest attempt to reach out to you,person-to-person, and let you know how I feel. In hopes of a kinder world, and with warm wishes to you,”

To my surprise and relief, she wrote back immediately, letting me know that she had NOT posted these. The posts were written by a relative of hers; he had placed them on her page and she, less familiar with FB, did not know how to delete them or to block him.I called her, we talked it through; she unfriended her relative and then followed up with numerous posts of her own avowing her true beliefs.And here’s the kicker: She also placed a Black Lives Matter To Me sign in front of her home in a small, rural town where I would be shocked if ANY people of color live. And today, she found a bouquet of roses left anonymously for her beside that same sign.So, my friends, take heart. Speak up with kindness when you can. Do not be afraid to state your values publicly. And let’s thank one another when we stand up for justice. With love, Anara

After I posted the above on Facebook, over 80 people took the time to offer thanks, comments, appreciation. A little splash, rippling outward…