July 15, 2020

On my late-night Facebook scrolling, I came across cufflink bracelets.

They were silver with inspirational sentences on the inside.
It seemed to me that this would be a beautiful present to get for my daughters. I would think of something cool to get inscribed and give it to them. It would be a reminder of how much I love them. Lately, we have been struggling to figure out how to love each other when we are spending so much more time together than we are used to–with no end in sight.

When looking a little deeper at the website I found that I didn’t really have the option of writing my own inscription. I had to choose from the ones that they offered. I spent a ridiculous amount of time deliberating about which sentence to have inscribed so that my kids would like it and think it was sweet and funny.

My intention was to give them something touching.
My intention was to remind them how much I do care about them even though some of my recent outbursts don’t always show it.
My intention was to get something for them that will be a reminder of their Mom.

The reality could not have been farther from my intention.

When I gave my gift to my children, their reactions were hysterical laughter.

They thought it was the cheesiest, most absurd, silly present they ever got.

The sentence that I had carved in the bracelet seemed ridiculous to them.

My oldest actually said out loud, “I always wondered who the idiot was who would buy the crap that’s advertised on Facebook.”
She had no intention of hurting my feelings or sounding the way she did in that particular moment. I actually kind of agreed and thought it was funny.

I realized that my midnight shopping wasn’t as moving or meaningful in the daylight as I had intended.

I truly believe that some of the really, really bad things that I’ve heard that my students have done, or their friends have done, and that they have shared with me did not come from bad intentions.

On the contrary, I don’t think there were any intentions at all.

When you have grown up surrounded by poverty, lacking the basic necessities and suffering traumatic encounters basically from birth, I’m not sure that intentions, good intentions or your moral existence, are anything but defensive acting out and aggressive behavior.

When you have been hurt and you’re angry, you don’t think that much about your actions or care that your actions might hurt someone.

Actually, when you’re trying to survive, you really don’t have intentions at all. You basically have instincts. When you add into the cocktail substances of any kind, intentions exit the room. 

In my class a person shared a horrific story about a carjacking. The story ended with a young girl being pushed out of the car, hitting her head on a fire hydrant and dying. The people who hijacked the car were “loaded” as my students say, meaning heavily under the influence of crystal meth or whatever drug of the hour was available.

The person telling the story shared how in her neighborhood at this particular moment in time there was a surge of substance and drug abuse. There were also many carjackings. People come, at gunpoint, push people out of the car, and steal the car, even just for a joy ride. She shared how the whole community was shocked by the death of this girl who is the daughter of a beloved, churchgoing family, who give back to the community. 

When the person shared this story, she was very emotional and crying. She was sad not only about the loss of this child, but also because of the loss of the life of the person driving the car. In her anguish she shared that she believes there was no intention to kill anyone. They shouldn’t have been stealing the car and they shouldn’t have pushed the girl out of the car.

 “But I really do believe that they did not intend to kill anyone,” she said again. “They didn’t know what they were doing. They were drugged out. People who do drugs do stupid shit. When I used to do drugs, I had no compassion. I didn’t care. I didn’t think about the effect of what I do. I didn’t think of the effect of everything, the effect of our drug use and the effect of our violence. When you’re in it, you don’t think that way. Now that I’m sober, now that I have learned compassion, now that I have learned love, I am so sad for the young people who did this because I know their life will be ruined.”

Her statements took my breath away.

We talk more about living life with intention.

I talk to my students endlessly about having focus and intention about what you want and paying attention to the way you talk and ask for things, because that is the key to getting them.

My children and I had a big laugh over my silly, although loving, intention of buying the bracelets for them. This will be a joke on me for a long time. In the end it was an endearing, funny mother-daughter episode.

I was lucky I made a choice to go with the silly.

This is not always the case

Sometimes, if not most of the time we have an intention, we really mean it to be good, but it is overlooked or not acknowledged by the other person.

Then, we feel small. Unseen. We feel silly. We feel bad because our intention was not met with acceptance.

Many times, that is when anger will fester.

There are horrible things that happen because people weren’t thinking, because people were under the influence, because people do not allow positive intention in their life, because they do not have compassion.

I believe that intention and compassion are married.

To have good intentions, you need to have compassion.

To have compassion, you need to seriously work on your demons.

All of this is incredibly important and part of the essence of restorative justice. By teaching this and trying to practice this, we can start to change the endless cycle of violence. 

My heart aches for the girl who lost her life in such a senseless crime.

But listening to the wisdom of my homies who have learned compassion and now have the most amazing intentions, I am, at the same time, cautiously optimistic.

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