Who? Me?

cc photo by J. Delp

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. – Mother Teresa

In his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, Father Greg Boyle describes several individual interactions with young gang members who, when asked a direct question, respond with, “Who? Me?” At first glance, this is mildly amusing, since the only people in the room were Father Boyle and the person responding to the question.

However, Father Boyle writes that this response (Who? Me?) is an indication of a severe lack of self-esteem. An individual that feels so devalued and unimportant that they are unable to imagine a situation in which another human being would be interested in them. “The story of a self being made to feel to small from being bombarded with messages of shame and disgrace.”

I have witnessed, firsthand, young people who are so convinced by poor test scores, failing grades, and repeated messages that they are no better than their poor behavior that they have thrown in the towel on their future. As an educator, and a fellow human being, I believe one of my most important roles is to notice the individuals who are asking, “Who? Me?” — the empty vessels — and doing all that is within my power to fill them with an understanding of their value. 

It’s not a particularly challenging task, but one that requires intentional action. Call people by name, ask about their interests and passions, listen (don’t just hear) when they are talking, work to find and recognize their contributions (to their school, job, community, and/or world). Many of us are in a position to help replace messages of “shame and disgrace” with words of hope, grace, and encouragement. 

How will you make this happen In your daily life?

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