Savannah Hanson: See no strangers
Yesterday I opened a drawer and found a bracelet that I don’t remember seeing in decades. Yet I was instantly transported back to Jesus Maria. It is a Cora village in the mountains of Mexico. We had just flown in for Easter ceremonies. When we arrived shortly after dawn, we were met with armed soldiers. As we came off the plane we were searched and our cameras were confiscated. I went off to the edge of the field and began to cry.
A soldier walked up to me and asked why I was crying. My boyfriend explained to him that I wasn’t used to being met by armed soldiers or having my things confiscated.
Part of the reason the dawn arrival greeted by armed soldiers was so difficult was we had just left a village that I had no desire to leave. It was a Huichol village also up in the mountains. When we arrived no one spoke or looked at us. It took days until we were accepted and many of the foreigners were not ever accepted because they were rude or impatient. That village had a tradition of very pagan Easter ceremonies mixed with Christian religious tones. A cow was slaughtered and the blood sprinkled everywhere along with a crucifix/cross being paraded through the town. We were camping in the village and over time came to be, for me, significantly welcomed. So even though everything was bizarre at some level and so foreign to my everyday experience, the kindness of the villagers made me feel at home.
The contrast of how I felt the sense of belonging in the Huichol village after our initial trial period of being observed before we were accepted was in stark contrast to the armed soldiers. In the Huichol village many of the tourists were there for the peyote that was an Integral part of the ceremonies. They often tried to buy it in rude and aggressive ways and were then shunned by the village. The sense of belonging I felt in this village was in sharp contrast to later being met the next day by armed soldiers outside the Cora village.
Yet once one soldier gave me his own friendship bracelet and tied it on my wrist with such compassion, I immediately began to change how I felt about this new experience. He seemed genuinely sad to witness my fear and sorrow. He untied the friendship bracelet he was wearing and tied it on my wrist. He explained why this bracelet was important to him. Immediately my nervous system began to calm down and the fear began to leave my body. This memory is etched in my being.
In the last few days I began to continue reading the book “See No Strangers“ by Valarie Kaur. In it she talks about all the hate crimes that arose after 9/11. A beloved friend of theirs was murdered simply for being a Sikh. The author traveled around the country after 9/11 interviewing people who were impacted by hate crimes. Ultimately she flew to India and met the widow of their friend who had been murdered. She asked the widow how she was coping and how she felt about America.
The woman said she had been so touched by the outpouring of support. Several people had humanized the story of this tragedy so that her husband was presented as someone familiar, someone known rather than a stranger. For her, that changed everything. Having her grief shared by thousands of people who showed up for the funeral soothed her grief.
Last week I signed up for a workshop, which only a few days before the event I recognized would be facilitated by people living in China. I felt my stomach drop alerting me inner shadow/triggers had me in their grip. I was in China maybe a week after the tragedy at Tiananmen Square. There was for me an oppressive feeling of fear, of hiding, of censorship. I was rarely able to connect to a heart space in the Chinese. We also had a scary incident of cultural misunderstanding while there. All of which left a semi conscious distaste for China I had never examined. Toward the end of the workshop as I felt this energy arise in the now, I was guided to share my experience. All the Chinese women met me with such compassion and understanding, particularly one woman who understood but only spoke some English. They all appeared to care so deeply about my experience and one welcomed me to visit China. Since then, I have been in email contact with this woman. I found we have a number of key shared values and visions. This exchange has helped me dismantle a long standing place within where I saw strangers. It has touched me deeply.
I am bringing all of this to ask myself and perhaps anybody else who will read this, who is the stranger? How does seeing someone as a stranger impact how we relate to them? How can one act of kindness have such a huge impact? To me these are important questions as we create the new earth.
For information on private sessions or classes or to schedule a free 30-minute mini session, contact Savannah Hanson, M.A., MFT #40422 at 530-575-5052 or RisingasLove@gmail.com.
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Shelley first attended our cancer support group just a day after she was diagnosed. When another participant gently asked her if there was anything she’d like to say, she only cried.