“So it is better to speak, remembering we were never meant to survive.” ~ Audre Lorde.
I’ve been thinking about how to speak my truth even as my voice shakes, and then how to act upon my words, so I turned to my heroes.
Inspiring books are scattered on my coffee table as a reminder to pause, pick one up, and read, especially on those days when I am bombarded with too much of everything.
On one of those recent days, I had to pen words in a way that caused my fingers to tremble, yet I had no choice.
I believe that standing up for our rights (and the subsequent injustices) is key to our citizenship in our world. So I stood up, and I wrote something that wasn’t meant to be published to a wide audience: it wasn’t a blog or a poem, but a response to the way our lives had been compromised due to a key element being withheld from our son’s education. And it scared me.
I wrote, and then scratched out words until I got to a place in which I didn’t feel as if I could go on writing.
I sighed, put down my pen, and saw Julia Butterfly Hill’s smiling face on the cover on One Makes the Difference next to the National Geographics on the coffee table.
Yes, that’s it, I thought to myself.
One does make a difference.
Almost 15 years ago, I listened to Julia tell her story of swaying in a platform atop an old-growth redwood as one of the many El Nino storms slammed rain and wind against her makeshift home, yet she held on.
Julia stayed at the top of the 1,000 year-old redwood who she named Luna for 738 days straight—she never touched the ground. She believed in protecting the remaining old-growth redwoods in northern California.
Initially, Julia told herself many reasons that she shouldn’t get involved in the fight to protect the redwoods as she explained the turning point in her book, One Makes the Difference. She spent time praying about whether or not to take action, and she heard these words, “Julia, if you walk away from this injustice, your inactions will be as much a part of the destruction of the redwoods as the actions of the CEOs of those lumber companies.” So she climbed up a redwood that was scheduled to be cut down, and she stayed in the tree for over two years, protecting it from destruction.
All those years ago, I loved watching Julia tell the story as she perched on a bar stool on the stage in an old auditorium in a coastal village. Her bare feet gripped the sides of the stool as she spoke about her experiences. I sat in the back of the audience, holding my three-month-old son, ready to make a quick exit if he cried loudly.
Julia explained that she used to be terrified of speaking to an audience. “I was the woman who used to sit in the very back of the room, behind the very back person, behind the baby—yes, you,” she said, pointing toward me.
I laughed with the group, and realized that she meant me—that I was the woman behind the baby.
I blushed, thinking about how parenting shaped a person into a new role. A role which would completely change my perspective about our culture, social norms and the potential of one person to create change just as living on a platform at the top of an old-growth redwood had done for Julia.
My baby turned 15 this month.
And I’ve recently shown my son that I, too, can stand up for him with regard to the rights of special education: that one can make a difference even if my voice shook as my pen curved my words on paper.
I’m not sure if my recent penning of words will even create changes (although I sincerely hope they do), but as long as my son knows that I’ve got his back then that will make all the difference in the world for him.
*One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions that Change Our World by Julia Butterfly Hill.
Author: Jes Wright
Editor: Emily Bartran
Images: Courtney Emery/Flickr