honesty

When we moved to the States from Israel, it was hard for me to get used to the American way of non-confrontation that manifests itself in simply NOTanswering or responding if you are not interested.

I guess ,you are supposed to understand that someone doesn’t want you or your services, if they don’t contact you and or say NO thank you.

Ten years later  and I still struggle with this.

When we first moved here, I used to look at my husband in dismay and say,
“I think something is wrong with our server.  I'm not getting responses to my emails.”

“Nomi, they are just not answering your emails.” 
“Oh …..” I would say sadly.
You see, in Israel people are direct, transparent, honest, sometimes painfully so. You know where you stand immediately.  It’s a non bullshit society that sometimes people think is rude.  Personally, I love it!
“No, your show is too expensive.”
“No, this doesn’t work for me.”
“No, I don’t feel like it.“

“My kid doesn’t really want to play with yours, so maybe not today.”
Sting as it might, you know where you stand.

 In Relationships 101 I talk about honesty and candor. 
I talk about saying what you need and want and what hurts you.
I talk endlessly about finding the right words to say anything. And that, although it is hard, in a healthy relationship you should feel free to say everything.You just need to find the right words.

When I first implemented the program in public schools or the Jewish private schools, so many questions came up, so many existential “whys”.

Why should we be vulnerable?
Isn’t it dangerous?
Why it is important to have transparency?
It’s too hard.
Why should a girl call a boy?  (Yes, shockingly to me in the year 2012 that question was still on the table!)

 In Juvie they  simply are, there are no whys.
I am a drug addict .
I made mistakes. 
I am lost. 
I will always love him even though he hurt me.
I am here and I hope he waits for me.
The crazy unhappy being of their lives is summed up in a simple: 
I am fucked up. 
I don’t have no one.
I never went to school .
I make money for sex.
I gave my child to my sister.

In my writing prompts I usually ask a question that I hope will make them think and then write some kind of answer. I ask a lot of questions. I want to learn, to know, to understand.

Today a girl who doesn't smile much came to me with a big grin and said,  “Ms., I gotta ask you something.”

And then with a even bigger smile ,laughing she says,

“I really need to ask you something.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Who do you work for?” 
“What?” I say.
“Yeah, who you working for?  With all your investigating.” 
“What?” I am really puzzled.
“I don’t understand,” I say.
“You ask so many fucking questions.  Who are you gonna tell?  Who's asking you to get the information?”
I think that some of them have been investigated so many times about their crimes that maybe she thinks I am trying to collect evidence.
“I don't work for anyone,”  I say.
“I ask questions so that together we can think of answers.  I ask questions because I want to learn about you, and try to understand.   I want you to learn about you.  I ask questions because from all your words I will create our play.  And, most of all, I ask questions because I want you to think and I want you to say out loud what you want and who you want to be.  I want you to talk about your dreams, where will you be in 15 years.   Because saying it ,is the first step in getting it.”

 I realized I just gave a 5 minute monologue.
I was a little panicked.  Shit, am I coming on too strong?
This is a small group.
Do they think I am part of the establishment?

“Do you really think if I say it, I can get it ?” she asked me.
“I think thats what puts you on the way to get it, really” I say,

“I believe with all my heart, that you must say it ,cause if you don't ? who will ?”
I then looked at them and asked :
"
Does anyone else feel that way about these questions ?” I ask.
“Tell me if you feel that the questions are intrusive.”

“What?” they say.
I explain what intrusive means.
“Is it too many questions?”
“No,” they say.  “Absolutely not!”
She giggles.  It’s a little bizarre –Who know where this kid is coming from ,she is one very very tough one.
I have no doubt that she has been investigated time and time again,and I am sure she  and pissed off every person investigating her!
“I like the questions, Ms.,” one said.
“They make me imagine what could be.  If you can’t imagine it, it can’t happen. Right?  And if you imagine it, it happens.”

“Well,”  I say carefully.  “It isn’t as simple as that, but once you see it, you can walk in that direction.  You know what it looks like and sometimes that is enough. Or sometimes walking in the direction of what you think you want, can take you to where you are supposed to be.”

It got very quiet.  I could hear them thinking about what I just said.

“You are honest as shit, Ms.  I like that.  You don’t promise us no cotton candy.”

“No, I don’t.  I don’t promise anything.  All I can promise is that you are worthy of greatness.”

And suddenly I am teary.

“Ms. Don’t be crying on us ! You wanna ask some more questions?” the tough one says.  

“I got it ,I know ,I can have a future.”

She pushes me a little. I loose my balance and we laugh -
They always panic a little when I get emotional.
“Yes, you can,” I say.
I look at her ,covered with tattoos, a cross around her chest, tough as nails, so easily agitated ,so damaged .
She is so far off the path, I can barely see her  future, but I know it’s there.

So I pray.
I pray because what else can I do? 
I pray that the change I desperately believe in, can and will actually happen and that MY honesty, candor, and faith will push her a little forward in its direction.