Featured

All You Need Is BOTOX! (I mean LOVE!)

Oh, the oddity that is humanity.

Here’s hoping Love wins out among all the things we think we need!

Deleted Pages: Childhood Home

In the same way that movies have deleted scenes, so do books have deleted pages and passages that got rifled out through the editing process. I want to occasionally share some thoughts that lingered for a while in between the pages of my book “it’s called a spade,” but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make it to publication.

Today’s passage is about my childhood home, and while I was able to process some of it in my book, I think perhaps I found a better way to say it than this original copy that felt more like being much too old for pouting. Perhaps that’s okay though, perhaps now that I’m five years older, I can let my younger self have the permission she felt she needed to pout… even if that younger self was actually 32.

I think we’re always in the process of growing, even once we’re “grown up,” and I think that’s okay as life throws us curve balls we aren’t always prepared for. I think 2020 is a great example of a curve ball for which none of us were prepared for.

For now, a deleted page that remains a memory I am finally at peace with.

The Barrows Bunch (Please note the matching tee shirts! Ahh to be naive again!)

It feels like my childhood home is being ripped right out from under me. It is only now at 32 that I am beginning to accept I won’t get my childhood back. I’ve realized it long before now, but accepting it is a whole different ballgame I wasn’t prepared to play. In many ways I don’t want my childhood back, perhaps parts of it, like the innocence, the pizza parties, the beach games and make believe worlds in the woods behind our house, but other parts of it I’m quite glad I don’t have to relive. And even though I know time travel to be as silly as Kanye being president, part of me deep down has always hoped I could go back and do things differently.

“If only I had known then what I know now,” who hasn’t thought this? I’m sure there’s a country song or jazz ditty with this line in it. I’ve held onto this thought so tightly that for quite some time I have always thought things were going to be different. I’ve always thought I would get a second chance, not realizing adulthood was my second chance. I pay my own bills and drive my own car and complain about the government and do all the things that adults do now, but outside of engaging in those adult responsibilities, I don’t feel like an adult. I don’t know what an adult is supposed to feel like. It is safe to say that up until this morning I have been functioning very much like a child, waiting for everything to turn out right, wanting someone else to do everything for me and hoping for a better ending to the story.

I’m helping my mother pack up the place we called home for over 30 years and it dawned on me this morning as I laid on the couch that we weren’t playing pretend and we weren’t going to get our house back. Much like my childhood, the place I called home for so long is going to be a thing of the past.

Perhaps I only just now realized I wasn’t going to get my second chance at doing things all over again because my house was the last thing left from my childhood still lingering in the present. I knew I could always go back home no matter where I was or how hard things got, and home was the physical location of the house I grew up in.

Some people and plaques say that home is where the heart is, or where you park it, or where you make it. Some people say home isn’t a place but a people. I agree with all of those things, sort of, but mostly because I know it in my head to be true, not because I feel it. Home has always been the house at the end of Gray Mans Loop in Pawleys Island, SC because it is the only home I have ever lived in. And while it might be the people inside the house who make up the home, what do you do when the people split up and go live different places?

My siblings all grew up and moved away, which is to be expected of siblings, but when my mother and father split up after 30 years of marriage, my family didn’t feel like home anymore, mostly because none of it was familiar to me. The only thing that remained stable after my parents split was the house I grew up in, and so it remained home even after the people in it came and went. 

Even though I moved out of the house after high school, it was always there, always an option, always a safe place to retreat to. I could always run home. Knowing it would always be there also meant I never actually went there. It was more of a last resort, especially after my parents split up. It’s weird to walk into a familiar place with a new vibe. It’s confusing to look around and recognize everything but feel nothing. It’s confusing to be at home and not feel at home no matter where you go. 

—————————–


To be honest, that was as far as I got in that thought process, and I’m still not sure I have resolve for it. I am at peace with it, but I don’t necessarily have any more answers now than I did then.

Time has allowed me to adjust to my new normal and it no longer hurts the way it used to. There are still moments that sting from time to time, but I’ve realized that’s okay. Nothing in this world is as it was intended to be and sometimes we will feel the sting of it… some worse than others. I have no remedies or how-to solutions. I have no motivational quotes for you or I to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Perhaps there’s a time for that, I honestly don’t know. I just know that sometimes life kinda sucks. It’s still beautiful, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Today, I’m good (I think I’m technically supposed to say “well,” but I like using “good,” I hate when people correct that!). And I suppose that’s all I need for right now. My hope is that you are good too, and that you recognize that simple state of being good as a gift.

And if you aren’t, I hope good times are ahead… trust that they are. This life isn’t all bad (even if it feels that way sometimes).

“it’s called a spade” can be purchased at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com

Dolly Party

Yesterday was Dolly Parton’s Birthday. I know this because it’s just long enough after Christmas to still feel comforted by your Christmas decorations being up, but not too long after that you feel lazy for not having taken them down yet.

I usually take down my Christmas decorations the same time as Dolly… on her birthday. I blast Dolly’s Christmas album and it makes taking the tree down a little more enjoyable instead of feeling like the spirit of Christmas is dying and we’re about to go back to the real world of people hating each other.

I normally wouldn’t be that pessimistic, but after 2020 ended and 2021 didn’t get off to the best start, I’m tired of looking on the bright side. Mostly I’m just tired. I think everyone is.

And yet, knowing we all have moments of feeling too tired to encourage others (even Dolly), I’m grateful for things like technology where words can be recorded, saved and replayed at a later date, a date when everyone’s too tired to come up with more encouragement and instead can just read or hit play and remember the words of someone who encouraged them once before.

I was too tired to take my tree down yesterday. I didn’t play Dolly’s Christmas album, but I did play her greatest hits and was reminded that bullies don’t get far in life, women are stronger than anyone thinks, and you can’t keep wasting time… you gotta get to livin!

While Dolly may not be everyone’s cup of tea (neither am I, and WHO IS anyway?), to me, she’s someone who inspires people to be unabashedly themselves, change as they see fit, and love others no matter how different. For that, she deserves a cake (at the very least)!

I don’t usually bake her a birthday cake every year, but I was inspired to yesterday morning as I saw my empty egg carton sitting upside down in my recycle bin. I’m not quite sure what it says about the way my mind works, but upon looking at said egg carton, I thought to myself, “Omg, Dolly!”

Yea, I’m not quite sure how it all happened, and the fact that it was perfect timing to have finished off a carton of eggs on Dolly’s birthday… but there she is “in all her glory,” as my once 13-year old brother would have said.

My sister and I had a Dolly Party last night, which these days is a Watch Party on Amazon showing 9 to 5. Like I said, I’m grateful for technology, especially during a pandemic that allows my sister and I to still hang out and watch movies together.

While watching 9 to 5, we commented on how different things are today than they were back then, glad for the progress but knowing we (as humanity) still have a ways to go. It was nice to just be, to be silly and careless, and bake a cake just for fun. I’m grateful for the moments I get to have like this.

I’m still a little tired, but mostly rested and finally ready to take the tree down. Today, January 20th, feels like a good day for change.

Silly as it may be to celebrate a woman’s birthday who doesn’t even know me, it was a little breath of fresh air to be celebrating something instead of grieving so much loss that the year 2020 brought. The celebration doesn’t cancel out the loss, but the loss doesn’t have to be reason not to celebrate life’s big and little accomplishments. There are many things in life to still celebrate, many more things than Dolly’s birthday, but that seemed like a great place to start.

I’m genuinely grateful for a presence like Dolly in the world. I’m grateful for women, no matter how different, who blaze trails for those of us who wonder where we fit in life. 

I’m grateful and tired and concerned and curious and hopeful and worried and excited and nervous and happy and sad and anxious and all the things that life throws at us.

Happy Birthday, Dolly! 75 years is quite an accomplishment. Making this cake sure gave me a bunch of laughs, and laughs is what I needed right now!

Hoping everyone gets to do a few things this year just for the fun of it.

💖🎉💖

jj

You can order my Holly Dolly Christmas design at www.teepubic.com/user/jj-barrows

It’s Just A Feeling with Brian Apprille (Part 2)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hv9zv-eda844

Part 2 with Brian Apprille (be sure to check out last week’s episode before listening to this one… at least for context’s sake, or not if you prefer to be confused 😀 )

This week Brian continues his story of recovery from facial paralysis, crippling depression and eventually getting back onstage… including his epic Simpsons audition! 

homer_29791m.jpg

 

Per last week:

Brian Apprille is a stand-up comedian, voice actor, and motivational speaker who performs across America for comedy clubs, businesses, churches, and any audience who wants to laugh or hear an inspiring story.

Even critics (and JJ) describe Brian as “brilliantly entertaining,” and “coast-to-coast funny!” Brian is best known for his high-energy comedy and impressions; he has been dubbed “The Man with A Thousand Voices” and throughout his performances slips between Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Alan Rickman and hundreds of other characters both real-life and animated.

Brian’s career took a turn for the serious in 2009 when he developed facial paralysis as a result of a rare disease called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. In today’s episode, we talk about how he found humor in the midst of his challenges and got back on the stage after over a year of fighting Ramsay Hunt Syndrome’s debilitating symptoms and severe depression.

Now an activist and a comic at once, Brian raises awareness of facial paralysis and inspires hope in fellow sufferers with plenty of belly-laugh healing along the way. He founded San Diego’s first facial paralysis support group and has appeared on NBC’s Inspiring San Diego to share his story. You can listen to the stories of notable facial paralysis survivors like Mary Jo Buttafuoco and WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross on Brian’s podcast, Unique Smiles: The Facial Paralysis Podcast.

You can find Brian on Social Media as @comedybrian, as well as hosting his comedy podcast: Uncommon Comedy, available where all podcasts are available (or just a click of the Uncommon Comedy button!)

To help Brian with his facial paralysis surgery, please visit:  https://gf.me/u/yxvwwg 

Tune_into_The_Jest_of_It_copybcu62.jpg

More Comedy!? Check out drybarcomedy.com/jjb for JJ’s stand up special, and keep an eye out for Brian’s coming soon! 

 

It’s Just A Feeling with Brian Apprille (Part 1)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4maky-ebe3fe

BRIAN2.jpg

Brian Apprille is a stand-up comedian, voice actor, and motivational speaker who performs across America for comedy clubs, businesses, churches, and any audience who wants to laugh or hear an inspiring story.

Even critics (and JJ) describe Brian as “brilliantly entertaining,” and “coast-to-coast funny!” Brian is best known for his high-energy comedy and impressions; he has been dubbed “The Man with A Thousand Voices” and throughout his performances slips between Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Alan Rickman and hundreds of other characters both real-life and animated.

Brian’s career took a turn for the serious in 2009 when he developed facial paralysis as a result of a rare disease called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome. In today’s episode, we talk about how he found humor in the midst of his challenges and got back on the stage after over a year of fighting Ramsay Hunt Syndrome’s debilitating symptoms and severe depression.

As mental health advocates, we care deeply about discussing mental health issues and raising awareness, and are excited and grateful to have had this time to sit down with Brian. 

Now an activist and a comic at once, Brian raises awareness of facial paralysis and inspires hope in fellow sufferers with plenty of belly-laugh healing along the way. He founded San Diego’s first facial paralysis support group and has appeared on NBC’s Inspiring San Diego to share his story. You can listen to the stories of notable facial paralysis survivors like Mary Jo Buttafuoco and WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross on Brian’s podcast, Unique Smiles: The Facial Paralysis Podcast.

You can find Brian on Social Media as @comedybrian, as well as hosting his comedy podcast: Uncommon Comedy, available where all podcasts are available (or just a click of the Uncommon Comedy button!)

To help Brian with his facial paralysis surgery, please visit:  https://gf.me/u/yxvwwg 

 

 

 

Lemon Juice with Melissa Lima

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-5f2s4-e9eff6

Born in Los Angeles but raised in New Hampshire by immigrant parents, Lima experienced the power of stories through her parents as they tell her about their homeland of Guatemala. As her parents learned how to speak English through watching television, Lima’s fond memories of family times were spent gathering around the TV to bond over sitcom shows, telenovelas and film. 

With her professional background being in higher education and the nonprofit sector, Lima produced 26+ comedy shows in Santa Barbara with LA based Don’t Tell Comedy (pre-COVID).

Through her love of entertainment and Latin (i.e.salsa) dancing, Lima continues to expand her creativity by exploring comedy, storytelling and writing. One day she hopes to follow in the footsteps of Mindy Kahling and Phoebe Waller Bridge to write and create television that tells the stories of the heart of humanity and the power of representation.

This was our first recorded episode, a huge thanks to Melissa Lima for navigating unknown territory with us, sharing a story of her own, and providing necessary insight to a successful podcast, like “yes, you should definitely have outro music!”
 
Tune in this episode to hear one of Lima’s original stories about when life decides to chuck lemons at you! (2020, anyone!?)
 
LIMA_LEMON_JUICE_copybqawu.jpg
 
Find Lima on Instagram: LIMA ON IG
 
Tune into Lima’s playlists on Spotify: LIMA’S JAMS! 
 
Find this week’s graphics in prints and products in: JJ’S ART SHOP!
 
leggs.jpeg fancy-on-the-inside-travel-mugs.jpeg
fancy-on-the-inside-beach-towels.jpeg mask.jpeg
 
Find us on Instagram for more current updates and stories!!
 

 

Hope In Waiting with Lisa Gilbert (Part 2)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-5y837-e8e406

Lisa Gilbert is back, fresh off of our virtual comedy show and picking up where we left off last week. After her own story of growing up in foster care, being adopted by a single mother, and eventually marrying later in life and giving birth to TRIPLETS!!… Lisa shares with us this week about what it’s like to raise kids in the current climate of racial tension, and her own story and family history of growing up bi-racial, being raised in a white family, marrying into a black family and addressing the dynamics and differences of each, yet how to find common ground and unity through the art of listening. 

Our personal favorite take away from Lisa this week: “be willing to have a learner position instead of a judgement position.”

Find Lisa on Instagram @lisagilbertcomedy, and be sure to tune into her Facebook Live show every Sunday night at 8pm PST “I Feel Like a Bad Mom.” 

lisa_momaq1hw.jpg

You can watch our episodes on YouTube at THE JEST OF IT YOUTUBE CHANNEL!

Find us on Instagram for fun updates and clips of each guest: THE JEST OF IT INSTA!

IMG_7029.jpeg

Find merch for The Jest of it Podcast and JJ’s art and comedy over at: JJ’s Artdy Shop! (Art+Comedy= Artdy!)

117223325_10164108053080092_3429658762921133092_o.jpg

Hope In Waiting with Lisa Gilbert (Part 1)

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-53scy-e7e2fa

This week, Comedian, Social Worker and recent Home School Teacher (thanks to Corona), Lisa Gilbert, shares her story of growing up in foster care, being adopted by a single mom, and finally becoming a mother herself… to triplets(!!) at the age of 44. In this first part of two episodes, Lisa has a lot to say about having hope in the midst of waiting… whatever it is you may be waiting for.

Lisa Gilbert and The Jest of It host, JJ Barrows, perform live comedy with Nowhere Comedy Club this Sunday night, August 23rd, 2020 5pm PST!

Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jj-barrows-live-stand-up-comedy-tickets-116076928217

Be sure to check out Lisa on Facebook Live every Sunday Night for her show “I Feel Like A Bad Mom” 8pm Eastern.

Find her on Instagram at @lisagilbertcomedy  https://www.instagram.com/lisagilbertcomedy

Third World Memories with Maria Alexander

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-rdz48-e6a7b9

Maria Fuentes Alexander grew up fast, raising her 4 siblings in poverty and a time of war in El Salvador. At only 10 years old, her parents set off for America to prepare a new place to them all to call home.

 

Maria shares openly for the first time in public, what is was like to grow up as a lonely child of war, dreaming of an America with golden streets and miracle-producing microwaves. With her arrival in America came relief, but also great disappointments… like chicken sandwiches. 

 

Now raising a son of her own on a farm in Indiana, Maria is able to laugh, enjoy life and express gratitude for where she has come from. Her story serves as her compass for how to raise a son in America with the grit of a third world immigrant. 

 

——–

Added Notes and Upcoming events:

Upcoming live virtual comedy show!! August 23rd, 5pm PST, Lisa Gilbert (an upcoming guest) and I will be performing comedy via zoom! My first attempt in this pandemic world! Join in the awkward fun and get tickets at: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jj-barrows-live-stand-up-comedy-tickets-116076928217 

Introducing: The Jest of It!

Meet

CLICK HERE to listen to the first episode!

thejestofit.podbean.com

It’s our first introductory episode! Welcome to season one. This week, artist, author and our kinda funny host, JJ Barrows, starts us off by sharing one of her own stories about surviving middle school. Afterward, she’ll break down what this podcast is about, how it came to be and where JJ is in life that brought her to this place of wanting to share people’s stories. Perhaps it’s what we all need right now, just to listen to each other’s stories, even the hard parts, knowing eventually we’ll get to the jest of it!

Show notes and more from the host:

JJ’s ART and tees: www.teepublic.com/user/jj-barrows

Steve Martinfrida

JJ’s book “it’s called a spade” available at: www.amazon.com/author/jjbarrows

Spade

Annnnnnd… her kinda funny Comedy Special: www.drybarcomedy.com/jjb

Comedy

More info on website at www.jjbarrows.com

jjbarrows.com

Find The Jest of It on Instagram at @thejestofit

www.instagram.com/thejestofit

Jest

THANK YOU!!!

Love Your Other

After watching yet another comedian get reamed for not simply just “sticking to the funny” in regards to the climate we’re in, I must say I’m increasingly bothered by the continuation of this response (in different forms depending on your craft): “shut up and tell jokes,” “shut up and sing,” “shut up and dribble.” First of all, the first two require one to not shut up, which I can only then assume the comment to actually mean, “stop saying things I don’t want to hear and say things I agree with. 

I know my place as an entertainer, meaning I know I’m not famous by Hollywood standards, and I know I haven’t performed long enough to even comfortably call myself a comedian. Nonetheless, I am on a journey that has led me in the direction of comedy, not so much because I have intentionally pursued it, but because I accidentally stumbled upon it later in life, and for some reason I kept showing back up. I have an audience though I admit not a wide one. This might sound nice to say, but I quite sincerely mean it when I say I care more about the depth of my audience than the width. Perhaps that is why Hollywood has not come a-knockin’.

When I say “the depth of my audience” I mean the capacity to which they are able to care about humanity. People as individuals are troublesome, even I have a hard time giving people a chance and trying to understand them. But when I look at humanity as a whole and what it is meant to be to each other, I hold out hope for the good in individual people. I don’t want to simply make people laugh, to be a talking voice that says things people agree with so they can feel good for the moment only to return to hating their neighbor. I don’t want to be a comedian who distracts, I want to be a comedian who adds… value, meaning, purpose. 

I don’t simply want to “find the formula” for good comedy that is guaranteed to have a positive audience response while I’m emotionally unattached to what I am saying. When I say “I care about the depth of my audience more than the width,” I mean I don’t care how large or small the crowd is, I want to show up as my true authentic self and trust that the adults in the room can handle what I have to say. They can agree or disagree with me, but we can hold space for each other, and acknowledge tough things going on in the world (and our lives), and we can still have time and space to laugh. There can be humor and pain at the same time. Not all comedy is like this, which I appreciate, I enjoy many different forms of comedy, I’m just honing in on the type of comedy that works for me. 

While I’m not here to speak for or defend all comedians, trust me, they don’t need me to, I’ve seen some of them handle hecklers and they’re good, I will say, I don’t think most people get what it’s like to be a comedian. To be someone who’s talent (somehow) is to make people laugh, but to still be a person who is functioning not only in a hurting world but also in the midst of their own hurts. 

Someone messaged me recently, someone I don’t know very well but who has followed my work, and with no formalities or introduction, they simply said “tell us some jokes, we really need to laugh right now.” I’m trying not to assume intention, but being on the receiving end I admit I was a little irritated. Mostly because comedy is part of what I do, but it is not all of what I am. I was an artist before a comedian and a writer before that and I don’t simply “just tell jokes,” especially as a means to distract you from the reality of what is going on right now. Even the greatest entertainer in the world isn’t only an entertainer. It is actually not our sole job description to not care about what is going on in the world and simply entertain. While we might most frequently have entertainment to give, life, as we all know, has ups and downs and ebbs and flows and the person inside of that entertainer is just as affected the by chaos of life. 

To tell comedians to “just be funny” right now (or in the midst of any of their own grief and pain) is to take the heart right out of what they do. Same with athletes or musicians. It’s the human heart, the emotional connection that gravitates us toward watching someone perform in their craft. The humor in comedy often comes from pain, the talent in sports from the pain of hard work and practice, and the rawness in good music from the heartbreak we experience in our human condition. To tell these performers right now to not acknowledge the pain they feel, whether or not you agree with their reasons why (life hack: you can’t tell someone they don’t feel pain), to tell them to “shut up and just (fill in the blank)” is to dehumanize their craft as if their sole purpose in life is to simply entertain you. It reveals your self-centeredness, not a weakness in their ability to entertain. 

I haven’t said a lot on social media recently simply because I have learned the value of listening. Something I don’t see very many people doing right now. Without taking the time to listen first, I see noise piled upon noise and no one is hearing anyone’s message because they are too busy defending their own. People don’t care about your self-defense, they care about whether or not they are being heard, and if you are someone who wants to be heard right now, then start by listening. 

I’m aware that saying “start by listening” may not be applicable to everyone in this moment. Some people have been listening for a long time and have only now begun to speak up. Some people have been actively listening for a long time and have spoken up before only to continuously get drowned out. I get the frustration. So without being aware of how far this message will reach, my intention to say “start by listening” is mainly to the audience I have seen on my own personal social media accounts. 

As of recent, I have discovered some of my own blindspots that don’t require me getting into Facebook fights over in order to address. I have learned to become educated about the things I do not understand. Simple enough, educate yourself, so simple in fact that I missed it for a very long time in many different ways. Instead of turning away from what is hard, I am looking right at it, listening to people I thought I disagreed with because I was taught to, and realizing even if some disagreement is still present, they are just people too who are trying to figure out how to express their core beliefs. It doesn’t mean I excuse “bad behavior,” but it means I understand the motive behind it, the heart condition of the person engaged in it, and even the fact that I myself am not the judge on that which is good and bad— maybe so for my own personal life, but not the entirety of the human race. 

I am heartbroken and sad over the state of the world right now, especially America since I am an American watching what appears to be her country falling apart. I say “appears” because I know there is still so much good out there, so much is being left out of the narrative. That said, I am still heartbroken and sad. I don’t say that in a “poor me, I’m sad, comfort me” kind of way. I do not want an “I’m sorry” response. I’m a grown woman with a lot of feelings who is fully capable of not only navigating her feelings, but having boundaries with them so as not to dump them on the rest of society in an attempt to get people to look at her instead of what is going on. I am heartbroken and sad over something worth being heartbroken and sad over, I don’t want a pity party, I want people to look at the thing that is heartbreaking and sad. I want people to figure out what it looks like to help instead of hate. 

I see a lot of hate right now, some is visible obvious hate, some is less obvious disguised as “concern.” To be honest, it’s the less obvious hate that is more dangerous; it can cover more ground and breed more followers. It has a sneaky way of invoking emotion to get one to justify their own beliefs and separate themselves from anyone different; it says “I care about my own” while dismissing the other, the least of these, the marginalized. To use the word “care” only in regards to those that are just like you and your thoughts and your beliefs is not to actually care but to self serve. 

Facebook now has a “care” button. Why did we need this? Just another way to say “I don’t love what you’re saying, I don’t even like it, but I really care about it.” Thanks Facebook, for helping us continue to excel as moderates, “caring” from far away, doing nothing to be helpful, while getting in argument after argument with people we don’t even know, people we’ve already made decisions about because of their religion or political views or list of arrests. Thanks for helping us turn people into divisive strategies to get our point across. Too much? Maybe, but maybe not, maybe some of us need to stop thinking the rest of the world should think like we do and maybe we should just let people be who they are; that includes allowing a family to grieve over a lost family member, no matter what their past includes. 

(For the record, I feel like I need to actually clarify for certain people that I’m not blaming Facebook for anything, I’m just making a point, maybe even a joke. Can’t wait to see how many people will “care”!)

I watched an African American pastor recently explain to a congregation that for the most part, white people experience things as individuals. It is easy for us to not experience something that happened on a greater scale if we were not individually or personally involved in it. That made sense to me. I often pride myself on being an individual, I always thought that was a good thing, and it is, but I never thought about there being a downside. For example, if I’m not aware, my individuality could hinder me from feeling compassion towards someone who is hurting or from standing up against something that is wrong simply because I did not directly play a part in it. I want to be an individual, but I do not want to be an individual who looks at injustice and says “yea that sucks, but it’s not my problem.”

The pastor continued to say that African Americans tend to experience things as a community. When they see a black man being killed in the street, it is very real for them to see it being themselves or their immediate family, hence why they have such a strong emotional reaction to it. It’s not as simple as “what a sad story,” it’s “that is my family.” It’s a different experience, neither being right or wrong, just different. Anytime you go through a trauma with someone you are bonded to them, even if you didn’t know them before. Whether it’s holocaust survivors or plane crash survivors, when you survive something with other people that no one else went through, it bonds you to those people. 

The African American community has a history of trauma in the United States, that’s not an argument I’m trying to make, that’s just a simple fact, a history lesson. As uncomfortable as it is to say, in my attempt to experience something communally, we enslaved them, then we “set them free,” then we poured acid in the swimming pool when they tried to swim with us, amongst other things. Not only did we say “you can’t sit with us,” we had them them hosed, beaten, sometimes even shot if they tried. And I know, not all of us, I’ve made the same argument (I wasn’t even born yet!), but it’s that very same argument of individualism, “I did not do it so I am not a part of it” that has kept me from seeing where real hurts still exist.

Some of the trauma done to the African American community was recognized enough to change the law, but not enough to fully heal from the pain of the damage done. In many ways, I have failed to see oppression because I have refused to be grouped in with the oppressors. (The modern day) we have to at least be curious about this. For me personally, it has been asking myself  “what part, no matter how small, have I continued the pain through the act of dismissal?” By saying there’s no more problem, I’m saying there’s no more pain. There’s very clearly still pain. I can’t unsee it.

This communal experience helps explain why the African American community responds the way they do, they didn’t pick George Floyd as their hero, they easily saw themselves in his place and he now represents what many have been talking about for a long time, a less obvious continuation of racial injustice.

It’s not to say that those are the only two experiences or reactions, individual or communal, it’s just to help give a better explanation of how things happen the way they do. When the same pastor was asked about the riots he was quick to clarify the difference between riots and protests which the media has clumped together, making all of it seem wrong, but even with riots he said something to the effect of it being the voice of an oppressed people who don’t have the tools or the resources to make the change they’ve been asking for, and so they essentially “throw a tantrum,” an outburst of anger which seems to be out of nowhere, but the reason it’s bursting out is because it’s been pent up for so long. Again, not all, but some. It doesn’t justify it, but it explains the why.

I think we all need to start listening more to people’s why because that’s where the heartbreak is. The heartbreak is what needs to be helped, but it can’t be helped if we keep condemning the how while ignoring the why.

I’m listening more. I haven’t checked out, I’m tuning in. I’m taking time to actually pay attention. And sure, I’m not telling a lot of jokes right now, because even though I do believe laughter to be medicine, I also believe there is a season for everything; a season to grieve, a season to heal, a season to find the humor in the pain, but in my experience, I only became a good comedian because I dealt with my own pain.

While I’ve dealt with my own individual pain in my past, I realize there’s a communal pain I’ve ignored for a long time, and since I’m part of the community that is the human race, I’m taking time to address that. I’m listening to what a lot of different people have to say. It doesn’t mean you have to do the same. I don’t think there is a formula, everyone’s role will be a little different in this season of life, perhaps even circumstance by circumstance. Some people need to speak up and some people need to listen, but I do think it’s worth discovering what your role is in a way that shows love to the other, no matter how different the other is from you. 

We’re all each other’s other. What does it look like to love yourself and love your other?

love to laugh

Original Artwork by JJ Barrows