While prepping ingredients for dinner on a Monday evening, I opened up a dialogue with one of my boys who was making his way through the kitchen. Holding the significance of the day, I asked if they did anything at school in honor of 9/11. His response, not really.
“Did you have a moment of silence or anything?” I wondered aloud.
He didn’t recall anything but shared how his teacher shared a story of being in middle school as well that life altering day. Middle school? When did I become older than most of his teachers?
As our food cooked, I began to unload the dishwasher while being peppered with information he had acquired. He shared theories with me and statistics surrounding that day that I had never heard before.
“Where did you hear all of this?” I questioned.
He cited multiple sources, and I’m fairly certain I rolled my eyes. Not wanting to shut him down, I asked questions, and we debated briefly before we stopped talking and he headed into the family room.
I had never heard any of what he was sharing with me and the events surrounding 9/11. I wanted to be dismissive. I wanted to discredit the sources that he cited and the theories that he had heard. I questioned the integrity and wisdom of those who shared their thoughts with his young, impressionable self. I wanted to protect him, to erase the information he had been fed. I wanted to tell him he was wrong, he didn’t know. I wanted to research, to silence the sources and control more closely what he was hearing.
I knew better than to approach him in that way.
After dinner I sat on the couch with him, and while he watched tv, I scrolled social media. Faces and stories shared across the pages pulled on my heart, and I asked him to pause his show for a moment. Turning my body and setting down my phone, I decided to share with him what was on my heart.
I acknowledged, as he knew already, that I had never heard anything about what he had shared with me. He sat in silence, curious eyes looking directly at me, and I paused. Letting him know that regardless of the theories or stories he might be privy to, real people died that day and although the reason why that happened may be debatable to some, that was not what mattered the most to me. What mattered the most to me is that on that Tuesday morning actual people went to work and died before making it home to their families. Moms and dads. Brothers and sisters. Daughters and sons. Partners and spouses. Loved ones.
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine me going to work and never coming home to you because of another person’s choice? Some people don’t have to imagine that because they experienced it first hand. Some friends, including people you know, lost family that day. Real people died.
He didn’t say much; he didn’t have to for me to know he heard me.
Sitting with my aching heart and heavy chest, I knew I had to stand in opposition to the theories by bringing humanity back into the story.
I may never know what he’ll believe about that day, but my hope is that regardless of what he hears, he will remember how he felt when the story was framed in real life. That he will think about the people, their stories, the lives of those who died, and especially those left behind.
What happens when we remove humanity from our stories? As human beings, our lives are too complex, too fascinating to be narrowed down to only the facts, statistics, or theories of any given moment. When we stand so firmly for an idea or a principle that we disregard the human experience of another, we potentially risk relationship and connection with those we love.
Is it worth it?
What if we dared to stay when we felt uncomfortable? What if we stayed when we didn’t know all of the story? What if we stayed despite our differences? What if we stayed connected to our heart? What if we stayed curious and open? What if we stayed to have the hard conversations? What if we stayed present with our bodies, minds, and hearts? What if we chose relationships over being right?
Where would we be if we choose relationships? Period.
Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by her everyday relationships. A highly distracted procrastinator mixed with a tender-hearted feeler, she can be a little bit unpredictable on any given day. Bethany calls Texas home where she navigates the messy and beautiful path of parenting two boys with unique challenges. She loves to enjoy life in authentic spaces alongside those she holds dear.