Thursday, August 24, 2017

Uncomfortable Silence

by Tracie Mooneyham, IofC International

Tracie MooneyhamTo my dear friends, colleagues the world over, and all who wonder what’s going on in the US as of late, I feel the need to express some sort of response in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, but honestly, I don’t know what to write. So, forgive me if this is a bit disorganized. It’s not that I am at loss for words. That’s not the case. I can list in my head a multitude of words to describe how sad I am, how disappointed I am, and how confused I feel about our future. It’s just that I have realized that anything I write runs the risk of falling flat. What I want to say can easily be diluted by my previous silence on the subject. I have been silent for most of my life because, really, I’ve had no reason to complain. I’ve mistakenly operated as though none of these events affect me. So, perhaps, that is part of the problem. Maybe I’ve gotten too comfortable with silence.

That’s an unsettling realization coming from someone who has always been more introverted. I’ve always been the observer. I was the quiet kid in the classroom, too shy to speak up or ask questions, and I evolved into a publicly timid adult. I was, and for the most part still am, afraid to look like a fool by expressing my opinion to others. I’ve let my fear of exclusion and my fear of challenge be a barrier to being open and honest. I have been content to sit on the sidelines and let others speak while I nod my head in agreement. Like I mentioned, I mistakenly thought that the words and actions of others did not directly affect me. Yet, by staying silent I feel that in some way I have given permission for others to do harm. By not using my own voice I feel that others have used my silence as an amplifier to let their negative words fill the air.

As I sit here at my desk in Richmond, trying very hard to come up with something thoughtful and reflective, I find that I can’t even form the right words in my mind. I’m upset, discouraged, and fearful of what this country has allowed to happen. Allowed. Yes, I said that right. I feel that we, the privileged members, have sat silent and looked to others to come up with solutions to our society’s problems. We talk a good game in our own circles, but how many of us are really speaking up and out? It’s my constant frustration, being an introvert with a passionate heart. Were we not all raised to treat others the way we want to be treated? How would you feel if no one came to your defense if your very existence was challenged?

Well, I think that it’s time that this introvert put on a brave face and spoke up a little more. If I can utter one sentence in defense of any human threatened by ignorance then that is infinitely better than passive silence. I can’t, in good conscience, allow hate and fear to poison the air we all breathe. My involvement with Initiatives of Change has shown me that global change starts with personal change. I would not have been able to feel more confident in my voice if not for the encouragement of other Initiatives of Change members. After listening to members and leaders share their stories, share their voice, I realized that I can and will make a difference by sharing mine. I have encountered so many in this organization who are embodiments of honesty, unselfishness, love, and purity of heart and action.

In conclusion, I offer a challenge to myself and to others who have sat in silence. Speak up, if you think that love trumps hate. Speak up, as if your life depended on it, because one day it might. Speak up, one positive word at a time until you can drown out the negative rhetoric. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because social change starts from within first. I’m starting from the ground up, by breaking my silence.

Tracie Mooneyham spent the first part of her career working in the business sector for various retail establishments while attending Randolph-Macon college. She is presently employed by a family foundation as their Program and Grants Manager. When not maintaining the digital world of grant making, she enjoys she volunteering with Initiatives of Change International, American Association of University Women, and the Interfaith Community of Greater Richmond. In her downtime she enjoys kayaking, gardening, and taking pictures for Instagram.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.