A little over a year ago, I took the Clifton StrengthsFinder test, which is a test designed by (you guessed it) Donald Clifton. He was a psychologist who, after many, many years of research, identified thirty-four “themes of talent” and created the StrengthsFinder test to determine which of these themes are a person’s top five strengths. My results, in descending order, were: input, empathy, adaptability, intellection, and developer.
“I don’t think that’s right…” was my reaction when I read that empathy was my second greatest strength. So then I read the empathy theme’s “strength insights”. “By nature, you may feel honored when someone entrusts his/her innermost thoughts or feelings to you.” True. “Perhaps you are reluctant to bring up certain topics or raise specific questions. You might worry about leaving the impression that you are prying or being nosy – that is, being unduly interested in the private affairs of the individual.” Also true. Then I read that I “hear the unvoiced questions…anticipate the need…find the right words and right tone [where others grapple for words]”. Umm, no. I actually tend to flounder for words and actions along with everyone else. I’m good at listening, and I also like to listen, but usually all I’ve got to offer is something along the lines of “I hear you, and I understand where you’re coming from. I’m here.”
I’ve found myself suffering from the same floundering for words and actions the last few years and here in Tucson as I’ve come to terms with my own privilege and heard of, read about, and witnessed the rampant systemic injustice present in the U.S. I understand, as much as a white woman of privilege can, the oppression present today in the U.S. and recognize that I have a responsibility to act on this understanding, but I too often find myself stymied by what to do next. So generally, I find myself waiting in a given situation for a clue for what comes next. And while I wait, I shut up and listen. I respond to the stories (histories, really) I hear with something along the lines of “I hear you. I recognize our shared humanity. I acknowledge and validate what you’ve experienced and are experiencing. I’m here. I’m with you.”
It is nowhere near enough, but it’s a start.
US-2, Class of 2015
St. Francis in the Foothills