When my grandchildren arrived, they began a fort-creating project from the stockpiles of forest debris. The nine-year-old twins, Walker and Taylor, started a teepee-ish design and dug deep for scaffolding, “We need a long bough to stand up for the roof.”
Five-year-old Brooke balanced gray stones for decoration in tiny corners. Almost eight-year-old Lawson lugged huge tree limbs with evergreen needles and old dead leaves still hanging on branches. “How ‘bout we make this entrance bigger and cover it with this?”
As Taylor climbed onto my twig/branch/tree trunk supply to grab what he wanted for the base of the fort, I heard an OOOMPH, a WHOOPS. I ran to find him fallen into the mess. He could not move. He pulled and tugged. His leg bled from the scratchy old wood. I got him one band-aid and asked, “Are you ok?”
“I’m ok,“ he said as we twisted his ankle and knee into position to remove them and him from his hole. More blood; second band-aid. Then he asked, “Can we drag this huge fallen tree to our fort?”
“Sure,” I said, and grabbed the end of the trunk.
We hoisted the heavy mini-tree onto the top of the structure Brooke, Lawson and Walker had erected while I was freeing Taylor. At the moment of our successful placement– like putting that crowning star atop a newly-decorated Christmas tree—we held our breath. The complete construction shook, then collapsed.
The girls jumped to back up. The boys, experienced architects of Lego magnificence and natural forest buildings, let their jaws drop. I watched them for their reactions just as their mom called to them, “We need to leave in 15 minutes.”
Brooke, Lawson, Walker and Taylor looked at the tumble of crumbled leaves, sticks, stones, branches. They looked at each other, then to me. Walker said, “It’s ok. We’ll fix it next time.”
Taylor shrugged, “Well, that’s the natural consequence of building it without enough support.”
“Exactly,” I thought. With Taylor’s brilliant remark, my mind wandered and wondered, what happens to a life if we build it without enough support? Don’t we see that now? When asked to carry a load too heavy for our personal structure, when one more stress, like a raging pandemic or the rage of one group against another, adds to an already stressed base, without the undergirding and integrity of strong scaffolding, what happens? A culture collapses into confusion and chaos, as in the spreading assault of Covid 19 and the spreading assault on individual and collective dignity. Grief, loss, trauma and death live in both.
On his way to their car, Taylor dropped a knife, and cut his hand. More blood. He said, “I’m ok.”
I got him a Band-Aid anyway because Band-Aids are mini-scaffolds, signs of concern, symbols of support.
Human beings need social Band-Aids, people. And our nervous systems need more than Band-Aids. We need a base in each other, foundations in strong human bonds. Without caring cultural connections, across color, creed, class, age, gender, whether sick or healthy, and no matter our sexual orientation, people crumble. Don’t we see that now? But with a safe framework under big loads, we don’t collapse when shaky. We can say, even if we can’t fix it just yet, “I’m Ok.”
Feeling OK, feeling safe, is a resource. If I feel OK, you feel OK and we feel Ok, we can begin to stop the spread of individual illness and societal dis-ease. We may have to dig deep for supporting societal structures. But we, like backyard projects, need to be held up. And we need to hold up others.