Photo credit: kevin dooley, Creative Commons/Flickr

“I would never know from meeting you that you come from such chaos.” -Susan*

During my recent trip to Savannah, I stayed with a woman, her son, and a good friend of hers, Susan. This woman was what I call a kindred spirit: someone whose story and experiences resonate so strongly with me that I feel an instant bond.

While having dinner together, Susan and I began sharing stories about our professions (we both love to write), our passions (we’re both into social change), and our upbringings (we both have tense relationships with family members). During this conversation, we began talking about how we support ourselves spiritually, and I shared some still-hard-to-swallow stories about my past: how I am a rape survivor; how I’ve dealt with the pain of not having a place to live; how I never got to know my father.

She seemed shocked at my confession and said, “I would never know from meeting you that you come from such chaos. How do you maintain such positive energy?”

My response: I had a lot of safe spaces growing up.

Safe spaces are relationships where people can experience hurt without judgement while knowing they are still cared for. School was my sanctuary not just because I was a nerd, but because I could share my fears, hurt, and concerns with adults who had my back.

I remember their names. I remember how their support helped me realize the difference between good relationships and bad ones (a lesson I still carry with me). And I remember how strong I felt because of them; it was ok to feel hurt, to ask for help, all while trying to move forward and tackle the challenges I was facing.

I believe that a big part of social change is creating safe spaces.  

Too many people, especially young people, navigate this world feeling completely alone and rejected. Yet we all have the power to provide a safe space. You don’t need start an organization or draft a business plan to do it; you just have to be willing to listen and support. These small acts go a long way in allowing people to come to terms with what they are experiencing while trying to move forward.

And the more we do it, the more it becomes part of how we interact with people and how we build our relationships. Our conversations are slowly rooted in kindness and understanding. How can that not create a better world?

This post is part of Blog Action Day 2012, and the theme is The Power of We: how we can all work together for social change. I chose to highlight how we, on a daily basis in our own communities, can start a making a difference by adjusting how we speak to each other. If you liked this post, tweet it using #BAD12 and #powerofwe.

*Name changed