Walking the dogs through the neighborhood, I appreciate the street’s quiet and fresh air. The dogs and I meet a rare vehicle or two. There is only moderate foot traffic and a few bicycles here and there. Most everyone waves or nods a hello. What causes the most noise in our neighborhood is what happens domestically in and around the edges of houses. This particular neighborhood suffers terribly from the noise, static and discordant sounds of a multitude of voices in inefficient and angry communication with one another. There are words of harshness, betrayal and abuse.
When we first moved into this region, we had come from the American Southwest where the code of ethics among certain local First-Nation peoples required that extra attention be paid to the issue of speech because, it is believed, a person has the power to talk things into being. There is also one First-Nation group that follows a no-gossip policy because it is considered unethical to talk about anything which one has not witnessed directly; and, if one has witnessed something, that “something” should not be talked about unless the witness is asked to report about it directly. Thus, unbeknownst to us at the time, we had spent a full five years—de facto—living in a community which was like an exclusive monastic retreat . This unique culture around speech invited us to reassess our own habituated and inefficient patterns of communication. Thus, on some days in our new location, it seems as though we are growing quieter while the neighborhood around us grows louder.
One day among my many walks stands out above all others in my mind, while reveling in the beauty of the weather, breathing deeply and walking with my dogs, I witness two young children come running out of a house into the middle of a quiet street crossing. There is a lot of shouting coming from the front door that has swung open as a result of the children’s departure. Fear and terror are in the eyes of the older boy. The younger boy has opted out emotionally, working to file this event away somewhere in his clay-like psyche rather than deal with it. How can he? The older boy, perhaps six years of age, approaches me. Fear having taken his words away.
“Do you need some help?” I ask him, not really knowing what else to say or do.
He nods at me, still mute with fear.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
I feel that calm stillness that accompanies me when I am in alignment. So, I decide to proceed to the house with dogs in tow.
Stepping onto the porch with both of my dogs, I witness a huge man, of perhaps two-hundred and eighty pounds, on the floor of the living room with another huge man and a leaner woman on top of the downed man, both of them are pummeling the downed man with closed fists and shouting about how the downed man “needs to get his sh*t” out of the house. An issue with rent might be involved. (This is surmised conjecture on my part.)
“Do you folks need some help?” I ask from the open doorway, being careful not to step over the threshold. For a moment the physical assault stops. The pummeling stops long enough that the man under attack is able to right himself and run to the back of the house with the other two individuals in close pursuit while they continue their verbal assault. At this point, I leave the porch with my dogs to reenter the street where the older boy is waiting.
“I am sorry that I cannot do more than that,” I tell him. The large man under siege is now out of the house and in the process of leaving in his car. The emotion around the incident hangs in the air. I begin the walk away from the house with my dogs, leaving the violent, confusing, irrational, raw emotion that permeates those people, their circumstances, the house and its vicinity. Calmness returns to me again.
People. Things. Things. People. “People and their sh*t,” as they say. When will we learn to bring our calm, adult selves to the table?
Perhaps it is unethical for me to report this to you. I have considered that. You did not ask me about my walk on that day or the status of things in my neighborhood. I tell you about this experience because there were children involved—there are children involved. We, as human beings, still need a lot of help with basic communication skills. We need help with ethics, learning how to read and understand our emotions, as well as how to address uncomfortable circumstances and unethical behaviors with diplomacy because our children are always watching and learning.