September 2, 2017

We continue to Build in a time of Tearing Down—and there are Too Many of us to Count.

I’ve never claimed to be anything more or less than, well, random.

My thoughts aren’t neatly ordered. They don’t line up in a chronological, numerical, or alphabetical fashion in my head. There’s little rhyme or reason to them—and it’s reflected in how stories pour out of my head and onto a page. I’ve written nearly 300 pages on my second book in only a couple of months, and there’s still more to come. This is my life as a writer: words coming faster than I can type, and never in an orderly fashion.

Recently, I had thoughts on picnics, and they started with an anthill. Hang on—you’ll see how they relate.

Where I come from, little black ants will carry off your picnic. They’ll make tracks on doorsteps and try to enter your home. But that was back home. Now, where I live in Georgia, anthills don’t mean picnic thieves are lurking nearby. They mean red ants—fire ants, ants that bite you, a sharp sting in your summer shoes.

As I stepped carefully around the anthills, I remembered that the lives of fire ants are every bit as precious and sacred as my own life. I then wondered why everyone couldn’t see this: that even though my life bears no resemblance to that of an ant, I can still recognize the value of life. I can still respect it—even if I don’t understand it or particularly like it.

Some ideas are bigger than me, just like I am bigger than the ants. Ideas like Life. Ideas like Love. Ideas like Compassion. Ideas like Kindness. They are the big picture, and I’m just a tiny part of the world they inhabit. What I do will not change them, but they can change me. Their footsteps are large, and I’m just looking up from my small life.

Who we invite to the picnic defines us. What picnic? It hardly matters. Let’s say “the picnic of life.” Who we invite into our lives—who we spend time with—defines who we are. Do the people we surround ourselves with espouse hate and anger as easily as asking us to pass the salt? Are they invited to our picnic so that we may spread our love and light? Or are they here because our secret selves agree with the values they espouse, even if perhaps we’d never say so?

Who do we invite to the picnic? How have we decided who matters and who doesn’t? And if there are too many people, do we build a bigger table or put up walls to keep them out?

And what do we bring to the table? I’ve never liked potato salad, but pass the pasta salad—please and thank you. I’ve never espoused hate, but I dig kindness. I hope I brought it to the picnic and passed it around. I hope I brought more of that than my righteous indignation or my simmering anger, which I should have left at home. I always have more love. I keep it in the picnic basket in case I need extra. I have enough compassion, but sometimes I bring more empathy than anyone needs and it leaks from my eyes.

At my picnic, if we were back home and I was a child, the uninvited ants would silently join the party and carry away something sweet. I hope strangers do the same when we meet, but sometimes I wonder if instead they carry away my impatience, my brusqueness, my irritation. I worry, and I wonder—so I try to do better. I smile and try to be present with them. I work hard to be kind. Sometimes I fail. But I try to remember that every interaction matters, and what they take away is what I bring to the table in that moment.

They matter, and you matter, and I matter.

I try to step around the anthills, but I know that if I step on one, unseeing and ignorant, they will swarm angrily around their fallen homes and fallen comrades. They will busily begin rebuilding what I caused to fall, and it will be stronger than before. And I will walk away, trying to do better, like every other person fighting for social justice who showed up late to the party because we didn’t realize it started long before we got there. We try to do better without expecting everyone else to explain to us why we should.

They matter, and you matter, and I matter.

How many times has someone failed to see the progress we’ve made because it doesn’t matter to them? It doesn’t stop us from doing what is right or working to make things better. We build anthills, casually knocked down by boots that never considered us anyway. We don’t quit being who we are because someone else doesn’t see our value. We don’t just quietly disappear. We continue to build in a time of tearing down. And there are too many of us to count.

We are a legion.

Every random thought comes and goes, but are they really random? Or are we slowly building the ideas that will form the foundation of our communities? What thoughts do we allow to take root here? And what do we take away from the other people we encounter?

I never claimed to be anything other than random. I’d like to go on a picnic now with carefully cut sandwiches and chilled grapes, sparkling water shimmering in cups the color of rainbows when the sun hits them.

I hope these thoughts are of benefit, this philosophical trail of picnics and anthills. I hope we all learn something about ourselves when we see an anthill. I hope it makes us better.



Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: simpleinsomnia/Flickr 
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Travis May


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