My days at practicum have a lot of laughter. My supervisor likes to say, “We have to laugh when we’re doing this work because it’s so heavy.” Laugh or you cry. Trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children is not a topic that gets easier, but it doesn’t often overwhelm me. It helps having a fun way to kick negativity’s butt: Two other practicum students and I started going to boxing classes together, and some of my friends and my roommate have joined in. Boxing is now a three-time weekly joy where I am sweating and laughing (I even learned to wrap my own hands… well, mostly. I had bruised knuckles after the first day I wrapped them myself. Trial and error!). When I say laughing, I mean that I had the giggles from the endorphins after the first time. I switch it with running days and find my running stronger as a result. Beyond kicking butt, another staff at practicum introduced me to Saturday morning yoga in Tower Grove park and the heavenly trees, the haven of birdsong, the temple of calm and beauty there has been a welcome respite at the end of every week.
With all these ways (and more) of centering myself, the tough stories and pervasive culture of violence, the magnitude of the problem and the difficult questions don’t get me down. I’m doing what I can to fight the problem and fearlessly, we must tackle it. Recently, though, I was reading and doing research for a series of posts my supervisor and I want to do on the role of johns in sex trafficking (pretty much, the problem itself). I was reading The Johns, which explores the attitudes, perspectives, and backgrounds of people (mostly all men) who buy sex. A hundred pages into the issue, for the first time in ages, for the briefest of moments, I felt despair. Here we are trying to work on prevention and I hardly ever really think about the mentalities that drive men who buy women and children, the justifications they offer for why what they do is ok… how to prevent that? Education of the community is important, yes… I’ve written a prevention education curriculum for middle and high school students to teach them about trafficking and safety. My supervisor is piloting it this week at week-long camp in Illinois. I am tailoring it to an audience of homeless youth next week. That’s prevention. What about the demand? I can’t answer that right now and there will be more about the book and johns on The Covering House blog in coming months, but here’s the point, I was originally trying to make: Despite all the self-care in the world, the issue can still hit you and turn you upside down. It can always get back under your skin. Maybe it was because after I closed the book for the day, the girls were coming in for Life Skills classes and I was reminded how young they are — children! — and if it didn’t before, the echoes of the voices of the johns in my head turned my stomach anew. What is this society we live in that such beautiful, precious girls are walking through our doors, seeking help, needing restoration? I think it’s every one of our wish that there wasn’t a need for our organization.
I came out of this experience with a song stuck in my head. My amazing roommate was playing it in the apartment early this afternoon as she did laundry, and I listened to it on repeat as I did homework after volunteering. Brave. I was smiling inside, thinking, when self-care fails, there’s always music.
Music is fuel for the soul. If you feel your own smile fading or a tough problem, a life decision, a heartbreak getting you down, all I can say is, find a song — maybe the one that always makes you want to dance — and turn it up. Even better, find your friends, find your favorite song, and turn it up together. Dance like kids, dance for the kids, dance for the world — for hope and healing for every child and person who has been exploited, abused, and hurt. Dance like the woman danced in Sudan for V-day, sing like your voice could lift the planet up and set it right.
Show me how big your brave is.