By Lee Collver-Richards
Are we listening to our children? Really hearing them? Our youngest is 38 this year, and he’s called me more in the last month than he has in the last 10 years.
What he’s had to say to me wasn’t pleasant. And, he said it all with as much love as he could muster. At one point in his diatribe, I almost hung up.
Why? When I am blameless as is he. But I didn’t really listen to him when he needed it most and even this week, I didn’t. I am now! And in every present moment, listening and following the lead of those who live in the future, our children.
I was working for the Canadian Ombudsman Legal Eagle who’d defected to the United States and was building the HBO Empire when the Northridge quake rumbled and tumbled the streets of Los Angeles. Joshuah, our youngest, was in kindergarten at the time, Donald in 2nd grade, Jonathan relegated to only a picture on our wall and we weren’t even allowed to speak with him on the phone. I knew he was safe in Connecticut. Oh, what I didn’t know surely didn’t hurt me but oh, how he was hurt.
The only thing I, thought, I knew to do in a quake is get away from everything bigger than you and stand in the heftiest door jamb of your building. So, there I was naked at my open front door, hanging on for dear life and praying to all the Angels in Los Angeles. When my wits returned, I called the Legal Eagle telling him I could not come to work that day because I’d been unable to get a hold of anyone and I had to check up on my kids. I had to check up on all my family. And we didn’t have cell phones or all our current jazzy communication devices, so I had to do it in person. I know I was coherent and very grown up in that moment in my brief and non-negotiable explanation to him.
He mocked me, called me a big baby and threatened the “you’ll never work in this town” routine. That’s about the only truth to his word he ever kept. I can’t remember all I did for that man. If I was translating film scripts in the off hours, booking his appointments and working my magic for free. I do remember, I wasn’t connecting with any of them. Even though I claimed my “dream” was to be a great filmmaker. I don’t know how they saw me, well, I do now. To quote Bob Dylan “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” And they didn’t know I was married to a black man, either. Oh, so many secrets I had to stuff into my heart.
Clive and I were about 4 years into our relationship. By this time, we’d already been to hell and back, so I kept my faith for his safety and started making calls. Joshie’s Mother had been in a car on the freeway – terrified and shook up but “safe” at her work. She told me the kids were already at school before the quake hit, so off I went. I later learned their Dad was up on a ladder stringing a 5K at Cagney & Lacey Studios. Jah holding him tight, now and now.
Me, a wanna be artist who learned to hold her liquor from her father and should have learned to keep her mouth shut from her mother, but that wasn’t the point of this lesson. The point is I didn’t wait to really hear, even now, 30 years later, to hear what Josh needed to say. I decided I knew he just wanted money. And that’s so very far from the truth.
And the forgiveness is in this memory that’s come up, when I did hear, something bigger than me. I heard them call me and I went, losing a different race on the way. Thank God.
Donald was not in school, however, having been kept out by Errol even before that quake, – that pissed me off! Stuffed it down again, though. Once Josh came out of his kinder classroom, cool, debonair, suave, connected to his God in ways I’ll never know, like only a five-year-old can be after a calamity, I calmed immediately. I held his face a moment, smoothing my hands down his shoulders and arms, taking whatever negative energy present and gifting it to Mother Earth.
It’s only today as I write this memory, I remember. I was listening to my “inner child”, in the language of no sound, the power of natural mystic, and I did what I must at that little moment.
I hope it won’t take me another decade to clear out all the mistakes and wrongs, the Christmas promises unkept to Josh of a love and a family and people to really hear him and care for him. Instead of the many unconscious selfish moves of my adult self who was being “responsible”, turning blessings of life and love into sacrifices for gains in the future.
So, parents, teachers, leaders, please, Please! PLEASE!! Choose active listening and really HEAR your children and everybody’s children. All children are our children. They’ve got something to say about the future that is not of the past. If any of us want to get there in one piece, we’d better start listening.