Let’s Not Be Blessed in a Bubble
I often feel as though I live in a bubble. Whenever I travel to a third world country such as Colombia or Haiti my bubble gets burst if only temporarily. Yesterday all across the US families gathered together with no shortage of food spread across a table or countertop. Dinner was complete with all the fixings from meat to bread to beverages and even desserts. Multiple desserts. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. Today the tradition stands as we prepare a harvest of our own and stop to give thanks for all that we have. For many, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday.
After stuffing our faces with a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner – crab legs, shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, jalapeno cornbread, sweet tea, pumpkin pie, pecan cobbler and ice cream – my family and I settled down in the living room to watch TV. We ended up watching Time: The Kalief Browder Story, a six-part series on Netflix which follows the real life events in the life of Kalief Browder. I had heard about Kalief vaguely, but I honestly hadn’t paid much attention. I don’t watch the news, because I need to protect my energy. I’m very empathetic and can carry the weight of the world in my heart.
Watching the story I found myself in tears throughout. I couldn’t believe what happened to him. If you don’t know the story Kalief was born of a mother addicted to cocaine. He grew up with his foster parents who eventually adopted him. He was arrested at 15 for joyriding and received a felony conviction as a result. Sometime later he was walking home from a party with a friend when a guy from Mexico told police the two had robbed him weeks earlier. The two boys were arrested. Bail was set but then revoked because of Kalief’s felony. Long story short, Kalief spent 3 years in prison at Rikers Island. Rikers Island has a long history of abuse, corrupt correction officers, and excessive use of solitary confinement, which can lead to severe mental illnesses.
Kalief spent 800 days in solitary confinement from the ages of 16 to 19. Kalief was never charged with a crime. His court date kept being pushed back by the DA. At some point the victim had even returned to Mexico. So Kalief sat in jail with no conviction, no victim, and no freedom, but repeated abuse from inmates and correction officers alike for three years. He was finally released at age 19 after charges were dropped and attempted to get his life back on track. The mental demons in his head proved to be too much and he committed suicide at the age of 22.
It was another moment in my life where I realized I live in a bubble. I realized the system doesn’t work for everyone. Circumstances can greatly alter the direction of someone’s life. I kept thinking throughout, “Why didn’t they get him help? He should have seen a therapist.” But he did get help. He did have a counselor. He did have a support system. He was on medication. He and his mother were doing the right things to help him overcome. They did the best they could with what they had.
I always talk about pursing your dreams and doing all that is within your power to live your best life possible. As far as we know we only get one chance at life. “Let’s make it count.” Yet, sometimes, some people don’t have an equal opportunity to make it count. Yes, there are a lot of people who have overcome great disadvantages and setbacks. That’s great. I admire people like that. They are an inspiration and proof that living a good life no matter where you come from is possible.
But I hurt for people like Kalief. Had any one of the circumstances of his life been different he may still be here. I’m obsessed with pursing and achieving my goals. I think about my future all the time. The bubble that I live in leads me to believe that I can accomplish whatever I set my intentions to. But I’m reminded that some people don’t live in my bubble. They don’t see life as an experience to be had with dreams to be accomplished. Some people live in a bubble shielded from the possibilities of life and are simply trying to make it through.
In the documentary Kalief said that he watched professional men and women in their business suits coming and going. He admired them. He wanted to be one of them. I couldn’t help but think of the many times where I complained about my corporate job and here he was dreaming of a corporate job. My bubble tells me to give up the good to go for the great. Other people’s bubble say my good is the great. It is humbling to say the least.
I can’t stay cooped up in this blessed bubble of mine no matter how enjoyable or comfortable it is. I’m challenging myself to step outside my blessed bubble on a consistent basis to help make a difference in someone else’s life. I’d like to challenge you to do the same. This isn’t about feeling guilty about our blessings. This is about helping others create their dream lives while we strive to create our own. It’s about lifting while we climb, not being oblivious to the plight of those outside our little bubble. It’s about giving opportunity to someone who lives inside a different bubble.
Let’s not be blessed in a bubble. Let’s expand our bubble to make room for others to share our blessings. Let’s not be oblivious to the hardships and misfortunes of others. Let’s always be willing to give support and help wherever possible. Let’s not be so focused on our own hopes and dreams that we miss the opportunity to help another with their hopes and dreams. As the old proverb says, “each one teach one” that we might all grow and achieve together.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dalai Lama