Microaffections as revolution: one response to mass shootings and lock-down drills

Guest post by Ashlee Forde
Photo of the author’s daughter by the author

The first woman I ever watched closely was my mother. She was a commanding woman who took up all the space she wanted — using her voice as a PA system, her furrowed brow as a warning, her eyes as a final resting stop before something big was about to happen. When things fell apart, my mother yelled. When something hurt, she pushed through the pain with an unapologetic refusal to sit with it and let it be. If necessity is the mother of invention, my mother was the innovator and final word on what was necessary. Homework was necessary, cleaning was necessary, laundry, rinse, repeat. Softness and comfort were luxury items, a scarcity economy of natural resources.

A few days after the shooting in Las Vegas, I sit with my seven-year-old daughter; she is drinking mint tea with my hands in her hair, carefully taking out her braids, one-by-one. She is describing her day to me. She mentions her confusion with borrowing in today’s math lesson. I assure her it takes time and we decide to work on it together soon.

Then my daughter tells me that tomorrow in school, there will be a lockdown drill and asks me if the alarm will be loud. I freeze, my hands tangled in her hair.

The thing is — lockdown drills are literally a rehearsal so children and teachers can prepare for a school shooting. This is now standard operating procedure because this now happens — fire drills, earthquake drills, and mass shootings, practiced for out of necessity.

I sink into the couch. I immediately think of my mom. My heart hurts, my pulse quickens, and I have no idea what to say.

I am unprepared.

I get up, excuse myself to use the restroom and cry for a few minutes alone.

When I walk back into the living room, my daughter has resumed taking out her own braids. I see her notice my red eyes. I sit down, now in front of her, and I wrap my arms around her and tell her I love her. I explain that the alarm will be loud, but that she will be with her teacher and classmates, and if she is scared, she can ask for comfort. That if she needs a hug, she can ask for one, and if she needs to hear my voice, she can call me afterwards from the office.

We need kindness in response to hate, and we need love as revolution.

I am holding her as I say these words and she is holding me too — because damn, we NEED this.

We need softness in the face of terror, we need kindness in response to hate, and we need love as revolution. We need these tiny drop of some magic healing warmth.

We need the opposite of the microaggressions that so many of us deal with daily… and I realize that what we need are microaffections.

These microaffections can happen quickly. They aren’t loud, and they don’t call attention to themselves… but I feel like bringing more tiny acts of love into our daily lives could save a life.

Microaffections won’t solve the devastation that is occurring in the world, but they have the potential to shift the trajectory of one person’s day and when you add it up, indelible marks of kindness are really powerful currency we desperately need in circulation these days.

During hard times (and right now feels pretty fucking bleak) I think of my mom, unable to be vulnerable and share her pain. I think about how her life was so different from my own. How she survived polio, regaining the ability to walk, with a persistent pain in her right leg. I think about what she needed but could not access. I think about my daughter, my close friends, my neighbors, my community, and what we all need right now but can’t ask for.

And I want to say, every day in tiny ways:

I love you.

I see you in pain.

I want to connect with you.

I will pick up the phone and call you, I will share a meal with you — I crave our conversations and it’s been a while, so let’s DO THIS. I will support your activism, I will show up for your life with an open heart and offer my own vulnerability on the altar.

I will say hello; we have lived next door to one another for years and now is the time to know you by name. The work of the day is really important work and it must get done. However, the need of the day matters greatly and a small act of love changes everything.

What small daily actions and microaffections are you trying to put out into the world? How do you deal with the persistent cultural grief we’re in these days?

Comments on Microaffections as revolution: one response to mass shootings and lock-down drills

  1. Yes Yes Yes!
    Smiles! Saying ‘Good Job’. General politeness. Say thank you and mean it. Ask how someone is doing and mean it, really listen when they answer. Share gratitude with others. Choose your words carefully. Find positivity instead of snark, sarcasm and callousness. Compliment someone (in a non-creepy or suggestive way) on something they’ve done or accomplished. Show appreciation.

  2. What a great perspective. I’m usually quite the misanthropist and shy from human contact, but we definitely need more softness and kindness as a society and as individuals. Thank you.

  3. If that photo is of your daughter, I just want to say how beautiful she is, and how sweet this is to read. thank you for sharing it with us.

    I live in a bustling city, where everybody tends to view everyone else as an inconvenience, some other hurdle to pass on the way to where they’re going. I’ve been working lately to be more mindful. To wait for the next train if pushing on to that one means someone else doesn’t, to offer up my seat, to smile at the homeless people I pass and offer them what I have. I’m also working to do what I can to make things magical for my neighbors, to better our communication, and I think I want to start volunteering more. The world needs so much love right now, and it helps to be reminded, these tender moments matter.

  4. Oh I’m trying not to cry at work because it would be awkward but I am all about this. Just a little kindness can make a world of difference to one person. I know it has to me personally and it doesn’t take much effort to pay that forward.

  5. I teach 7yos and we have lockdown drills too. The first time I had to take my class into a tiny storeroom with closed windows and sit in the dark was hard. I held hands, I comforted, and I smiled. This year I was at a new school and I had never heard the alarm before. It was loud. When I got home I hugged my boyfriend a little tighter. We all need comforting. I do my best to teach kindness as part of our daily learning. If I don’t, who will? My children come to school not knowing how to be a kind friend or to share or to use manners.

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