It is a Terrible Thing, This Knowing

I am still reading Mira Rothenberg’s Children With Emerald Eyes. I’m almost done, but there is a passage I came across, in her chapter “Winthrop and Others,” which struck me hard as I continue to do this amazing and strange ministry with abused kids.

The picture looked as though he had carried it forever. “He is a clown,” [Billy] told me, “he laughs. And he makes people laugh. But really he is sad. Very sad, Mira. Why?” “Maybe it is because he has lived so much and knows so much,” I said. Billy then said with a smile, “It is hard, Mira, to know so much, isn’t it?”

Why? Is it because it is hard to find words? Hard to say all one knows? A child is only a child and people don’t know how very much a child knows. Or is it because people won’t listen to a child, or even to an adult? Because they don’t want to know, other than what they already know. Or is it because they just can’t, won’t understand? Maybe because they won’t believe whatever doesn’t come within their experience? (217–218)

It is hard to know things others do not know and do not want to know. I suspect this why the phrase “children of the secret” is used. I know this ministry started with kids in the Pacific Northwest, though it is also beginning to take me farther afield, but as I drove the streets of Upstate New York, to and from work, I often wondered — what I am not seeing here? What don’t I know about this place that I know about Spokane? Who might need me here that I will never find because … because they don’t know how to find me?

Honestly, it is also tough to be an adult and know things that others do not want to know. Rothenberg is right — some people simply do not want to listen. Cannot be bothered. Like Pharaoh, their hearts have been hardened, calloused to the suffering they inflict, or just conveniently ignore.

But I listen. I have heard so many awful stories, so many terrible secrets. So much pain, sorrow, and anger. So much loneliness. I listen. I will never stop listening.