“Change moves at the speed of trust, and trust moves at the speed of relationships.” – Dr.William Dietz
It is ALWAYS about relationships, always and forever. That has never been clearer to me than this moment as I sit at the San Francisco International Airport waiting for my flight to depart back home to Philly. I really don’t want to go home and break out of the incredibly loving, supportive and trauma-responsive bubble that I have been in the last 48 hours at the 2018 ACEs Conference.
I will be stepping back into a world that does not yet view relationships through a trauma-informed lens. I will be returning to a school system that is struggling under the weight of decades of functioning in an adverse community environment. School and community violence leave me feeling that I am often on high-alert. I struggle to help families who have known extreme adversity to arrive in a country that appears no longer welcoming. Our streets are now paved with barriers and obstacles rather than an opportunity for a better life. This makes all of our work that much more challenging, but even more important.
But I have had these 48 hours to rejuvenate, reaffirm the mission, and connect with like-minded people who care about the work of changing the world as passionately as I do. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share my family’s story of adversity, of generational trauma because of mass shootings. I appreciate connecting Twitter handles to real live people who embraced me and made me feel that my voice matters. Thank you to the folks at the Center for Youth Wellness and the team at ACEs Connection for envisioning a conference that held space for deep conversations that generated commitment to action from across the world.
I am thankful to the incredible team I met from New Jersey, who spend their life’s work creating mentoring opportunities for young people through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties. You learn there is nothing random in this world when you pick a seat at a table in a conference of 850 people and find yourself sitting next to folks from your home state who share a vision of spreading this work. In the blink of an eye, we had co-created a public screening of an ACEs inspired documentary (details to be announced in an upcoming blog post)!
There is nothing like the magic of instant intimacy because you are surrounded by people who want to work together to end childhood trauma and create a better future for the coming generations. Reducing harm, working towards moving the needle to end childhood trauma also means addressing structural inequities, racial disparity and the social determinants of death, because that is what they are, that perpetuate cycles of adversity. These are the conversations that were shared throughout the conference. Marginalized people were given opportunities to speak, to dance, to sing, to perform spoken word poetry, to pave a new pathway of resilience because their stories were heard and acknowledged.
Tears, hugs, laughter, snapping, clapping and cheers filled a ballroom of eager pioneers in the work of #ACEs. I am beyond humbled to be one of them. Our voices matter, our words count and our actions will change health outcomes for generations to come.