My heart has been heavy with Buffalo and Uvalde. Writing about anything unrelated feels disrespectful. And yet so does trying to make sense of it all or wrap it up with a bow.

I’ve been putting off writing to you, and even as I begin, I’m uncertain what to say. And, yet, I want to honor my commitment to you—and to myself—to write you this letter.

What occurs to me to share with you is one word that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while:

Honor.

To honor means to recognize with respect.

In the family and systemic constellations lineage in which I’m trained, honoring is arguably the most important principle.

Constellations work aims to collective trauma by shining light on—honoring—people, places, events, and other elements within systems that have gone unacknowledged. When a family, an organization, community, or other social group experiences a profound loss and cannot fully grieve or process the loss, it creates collective trauma.

Likewise, when we turn away from a part of ourselves who is sad, scared, stuck, or struggling, it can have lasting, unintended impacts. When we ignore our sensations or emotions, when we try to force ourselves to think different thoughts, when we relegate anything within us to the shadows, it gains more power. Like a game of whack a mole, it’s apt to pop back up in more confusing and frantic ways.

What we ignore can fester. What we dismiss or avoid can wreak havoc in our lives, our families, our communities.

Until enough of us recognize the fact that our country is rooted in imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (ty bell hooks)—and work together to remedy the travesties of the past and present—young white men will continue to remind us that it is.

To honor means to recognize with respect.

To say their names.

To know our history. To say: This happened.

To say I feel. My heart hurts. I feel numb. Confused. Drained. Bewildered. Anxious. Sad. Scared.

And to act.

Honoring our mutual responsibility to one another often requires us to act.

That might look like making phone calls in preparation for the midterm elections, attending protests or vigils, organizing your workplace toward becoming more inclusive and equitable,  working to root out racism in your local police department (that’s what I’m currently working on), or something else.

I just finished Black Lives Matter founder, Patrisse Cullors’s new book, An Abolitionist’s Handbook. In it she writes, “People often ask me, ‘Where do I begin?’ I say the same thing each time. You begin where you are.”

All the issues are intertwined. Begin where you are.

But what if you feel hopeless?

Although people might see me as a hopeful person—I show up at meetings, write letters, make calls, knock on doors— I do not consider myself a hopeful person. I feel neither optimistic or pessimistic about the outcomes of my actions.

Of course, I choose strategies that I believe have a chance of creating an outcome I want. But I don’t show up because I hope it will make a change.

Rather, I show up out of love. My most core values are love and solidarity (a word with French roots meaning “mutual responsibility”). I show up because I believe I have a sacred responsibility to show up. Because I’m committed to loving my people, this planet.

So if you’re feeling hopeless or uncertain of what to say or do as I have been lately, I invite you to ask yourself: What might it look like to honor with love?

I invite you to:

  • Turn toward the part of you that is hurting with love and kindness.
  • Acknowledge how you feel.
  • Acknowledge what is happening. (Without creating a lot of story about it. Just acknowledge the facts as you know them.)
  • Then get curious and ask yourself: What is one step I can take to honor how I feel? What is one small step to honor what is happening?
  • And take that step.

I take solace in these words from Pirkei Avot, from the Rabbinic Jewish tradition:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now.

You are not obligated to complete the work.

But neither are you free to abandon it.

May you find the solace and strength to honor all that you’re called to honor.

Thank you for reading. It means so much to me.

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