It’s Not OK

by Cynthia Johnson on May 22, 2015

By Cynthia K. Johnson

As most of you know by now, we recently welcomed a new grandson who made his appearance two weeks early amidst carefully laid out plans by both parents and grandparents. We were preparing for the date of May 4th, however, complications set in and that plan fell null and void.  I found myself with not only a full book of clients but a three year old excited about the highly anticipated adventure we had been talking about for months.  Funny he was not surprised or disappointed by the change in plans, when you are three you live as you should, in the moment.

What was supposed to be three or four nights with grandparents, slid into six; all was fine until we traveled to the hospital to visit mom and dad and new brother. No one could have predicted three year old Gunnar would fall head over heels for day old Brokk.  Who knows what a three year old expects in a new brother, but whatever it was, the reality of his arrival exceeded those expectations he flipped and it hit him, the long wait was over, time to go home!  Upon explaining that he would have to wait another two days to take baby brother home, his joy turned to disbelief then sadness, and he buried his face in my son’s shoulder and sobbed; he was inconsolable.

The drive from York back to our house was heartbreaking.  For over an hour he cried out his mantra, “I want to go to my house!”  We pulled over and I got into the back seat to attempt to mend his heart.  I tried diverting and making other plans, I assured him he would be home with his family very soon, so on and so on.  Nothing helped, and in fact he amped up.  Feeling overwhelmed I sat back in my seat turned away and stared out the window through my own tears that had begun to stream down my cheeks.  After a few minutes, he became less vocal, his shoulders still heaving as his lungs sucked in some air between sobs.  Peace began to return not only to him but to Dave and to me.  As we drove in silence, we turned and looked at each other, as he recognized my sadness and his still quivering lip, I realized in that moment, that’s all he wanted.  Be with me Me’me’, I am sad.  It’s not okay—-and I should never have tried to make it okay.   When we pulled into the driveway he reluctantly came back inside, and it wasn’t long and we were making plans for the next day.

How often do we do that to people we care about?  We seem them sad, upset, suffering, and our first response is to make them un-sad, not upset, not suffering.  Who are we to decide that they shouldn’t feel pain, or pretend they don’t?     Gunnar’s story was a small example and one that had a very good ending.  But what about those whose lives are not okay and will not be okay?  When someone dies we are not okay.  When someone leaves a relationship, we are not okay, when someone is sick and in pain, it is not okay.

The day after we reunited Gunnar with his new family, the Baltimore riots began.  I couldn’t help but relate what Gunnar taught me over the weekend.  It’s not okay.  Glossing over decades of injustice, oppression, presumptions and ignorance is not okay.  Violence arose and the cries from the city were inconsolable.  Enough——Look at me!  I am here and I am hurting, be with me in my pain, at least acknowledge that it exists.  Reach out your hand so I can have the hope there is a way out.   The unique personality that is Baltimore City seemed to become the raised voice of the ignored that is tucked and hidden in the pockets of cities across our nation; hands being kept warm in the dark deep pockets, lined with soft bigotry.

As long as we choose to separate ourselves from pain, we won’t feel it.   Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away; instead it grows like cancer.  On the other hand, acknowledging something is wrong forms a bond that becomes the bridge out of it.  I don’t think many people expect you to fix their problem or their pain—and in fact it is often insulting to suggest you can; they just want to be heard and seen.  When a secret is shared it becomes real.  What we keep hidden deep down is the fear that it might be true.  A resolution must occur before a solution can. Many times the solution becomes obvious when it is determined there is indeed a problem. How far are we from that?  I truly don’t know.   What I do know is a lot of people are suffering, have been suffering and continue to suffer.  As long as those more fortunate whether through hard work or simply through privilege ignore those suffering — the underprivileged will continue to draw negative attention to a negative situation.

Until next time,


To be neutral in a situation of injustice is to have chosen sides already. None of us comes into the world fully formed.  We would not know how to speak, walk, think or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings.  We need other human beings in order to be human.  I am because other people are.  A person is entitled to a stable community life, and the first of these communities is the family.  ~ Desmond Tutu 

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