Protesting Fireworks: A Violent Pride

Protesting Fireworks: A Violent Pride

Late June and early July is the peak of summer and American pride. The icons of fireworks, star-spangled flags, and burgers on the grill are everywhere. Even the flavors of your iced tea are red, white, and blue. What could be more American than consumerism?

But the Fourth of July still has an integral component of community which makes me proud. In regards to family and community participation, I’d say the Fourth of July is up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving. Even people who aren’t patriotic go to picnics with their family and friends. Hoards flood beaches, parks, and athletic fields where music blasts over the explosions of fireworks.

Laser light displays, musical light fountains, and other types of celebrations and shows are alternative to fireworks.

For me, the Fourth of July was always a day to celebrate fireworks. A day to sit in my grandpa’s backyard and “oooo” and “ahhh” at the bright colors painting the sky above cornfields.

One year, I was traveling with my parents in the wilderness of Michigan’s upper peninsula. It felt like any other day, but it was July 4th, and I realized that it would be my first year not seeing fireworks. It felt odd, like skipping church on Sunday (which we also missed while traveling), but this was a national holiday that only happens once a year, so if felt that much worse to miss it. At church, our pastor is part of the Air Force, so every year we’d sing the National Anthem and play a slideshow honoring all of the US service members in our congregation. Just like singing praise songs in church or taking communion, fireworks were my way of remembering the United States and my place as a member of it. How was I supposed to connect with my country if I couldn’t have my heart beat in unison with the fireworks?

The Macy’s show in New York City alone is estimated to have 3 million spectators and an additional 15 million people will watch the live broadcast. Even more people will watch smaller displays in local communities across the country or launch their own fireworks. Just like looking up at the stars at night, there’s a sense of metaphysical connection that overcomes any distance and unites people as one nation.

I felt like if I did not watch fireworks on the Fourth, I would miss out on that connection. The campground host and a few neighbors pulled out some lawn chairs on a hill to watch neighbor’s launch personal fireworks. My parents and I went out for a short time, but I don’t remember seeing any fireworks; they probably couldn’t make it above the trees and hills. Late into the night, I lay awake staring out at the stars as fireworks popped in the distance, or they could have been shotguns (some would say, which are just as patriotic).

It’s not ironic that fireworks are made with black powder and sound like gun shots; it’s symbolic.

As I got older, I still loved the way fireworks looked, but watching them always gave me the sensation of a vegan eating meat. I’m the type of person who cuts plastic bottle rings before throwing them away so that landfill birds and rats won’t get strangled by them. It’s hard watching the dark shadows of smoke behind the bright colors knowing the massive amount of pollution fireworks produce, from chemicals in the atmosphere to shrapnel and cinders littered in waterways and across miles of land. I’ve never launched my own fireworks beyond using sparklers, but even watching community displays felt like a guilty pleasure.

This year, I’m working in an Environmental Public Health office in the PNW. In September 2017, about a year ago, a teenager lit a firework illegally in the forests of the Columbia Gorge and the whole valley went up in uncontrollable flames (Eagle Creek Fire). Because of weather conditions, the fire spread rapidly and could not be put out. It burned 50,000 acres for three months before being contained. Local residents have immense pride in the Gorge and this thoughtless destruction enraged them. The teenager received a very serious convictions for the deed and restoration units and trail workers are still working on repairing the damages. Driving through the valley, dead trees paint swaths of brown scars among the towering evergreens, and it’s impossible to forget what caused it.

This year, personal fireworks are banned in the city of Vancouver, Washington, but I still hear them in my neighborhood at dusk. At work, I posted sources to firework rules and disposal procedures on social media and our blog, but I don’t know much of an impact it will have. Clark County Public Utilities organizes a firework display at the Fort Vancouver National Historical site right on the Columbia River in downtown Vancouver every year. I don’t even want to imagine how long it will take clean up crews afterwards and how much debris will end up being washed down the Columbia into the ocean. At least public displays have fire trucks on-site, but fireworks can travel miles after being launched and rain down hot debris as they go. A few years ago, I ranted about firework pollution and proposed a few alternatives that are less polluting and still spectacular (take a gander).

This year, it’s more than pollution that’s bothering me, it’s that so many people act in selfish, violent ways without regard to other people or the environment. The teenager who started the Eagle Creek Fire has an eerie echo of school shootings. A recent news report showed grotesque mutilations of children’s feet that were burned after running over illegal beach campfires that had been buried and not fully put out. When I was little and sang The Star Spangled Banner, I misheard the lyrics and sang, “The rocket’s red glare! The birds bursting in air!” Forevermore, I can only picture a flock of birds being hit by fireworks when I hear this song. It’s not ironic that fireworks are made with black powder and sound like gun shots; it’s symbolic. Fireworks: firearms. Fireworks are explosives and just as dangerous as guns, yet many parents care more about putting a gun in a child’s hand than a firework. It just seems wrong that we use such destructive items for amusement.

If we’re truly proud of our country, we should be celebrating it, not destroying it with pollution and violence.

The United States is a symbol of freedom rooted and founded in violence. I’m not saying that war and struggles aren’t necessary for gaining freedom, but are we really honoring the freedom or violence? Our national anthem is a song written in the middle of a gruesome war. You cannot deny the imagery of fireworks sequenced with the lyrics “bombs bursting in air.” How much longer are we going to gloss up violence with the iconography of national pride? These social constructs go far beyond fireworks.

My vote is for changing the national anthem to America the Beautiful and addressing the root causes of violence. Arguing over firearm isn’t enough. Uniting the nation for one day a year isn’t enough. If we’re truly proud of our country, we should be celebrating it, not destroying it with pollution and violence, but each individual must come to that realization themselves for there to be real change.

This year, I won’t be watching fireworks; I’ll be having a cookout with some church friends, just like any other summer day. I’d take the colors of a sunset or the twinkle of fireflies over fireworks any night.

Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash


Earthen Story

Earthen Story

Historians excavate stone tablets of dead languages. Religious leaders preach creation stories. Biologists study evolution. Psychologist and sociologists look into the human mind… To the immortal, they all seem to belabor the same question but never reveal the whole truth.

Leaving this trail of inconclusive

trembling bits of some

momentous story.

Was it true, this time, the rumor?

The wherefore of our being here?

Does it come true in the retelling?

And truer in

the re-


(“Prayer” by Jorie Graham)

The immortal finds a pail of moist clay—

Let that coolness envelop you for a moment. This clay has been dug out of the creek that you now hear trickling nearby. Can you feel it’s grains beneath your fingers? The ripple of fish, the rush of the current as the winter rains fall, the pecking of birds at stones? Let it’s life wash over you, let it guide you to its true form as we mold it under our hands.

Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes. It is not the sand of the Arabian Desert, not the mud of Welsh marshlands, not the flaky slate of the mountains, but a firm, rich, rooted sediment from years of glaciers and flows that rest beneath you feet. Yet, it is the same earth. The grains and water molecules continuously moving and cycling, taking new forms, falling back into the Earth, taken up and thrown back down endlessly. In this manner, it is the same soil; the same soil the immortal touched millennia ago, the same soul from the beginning of time, even if it has changed in appearance.

A book of poetry lay open, it’s words escaping into the air we breathe.

…Yes, the speaking subject in

me wants

to rip the veil. Thought ‘if I bring my pen to bear inside something

will rip.’ But what? We write.

(“The Taken-Down God” by Jorie Graham)

We continuously tended to the vase, smoothing, dampening where needed. Then, when the urn is ready; when you are ready…put impressions into the shaped clay.

The immortal writes their story; the clay’s story; our story; the story of the Earth throughout all time. Memories and tales spin around vase—

Let it consume you, let the present slip away as we dive into the past, dive into eternity.

By their crossing through the one great

inwardness of

mind, by the straining to be held (grasped) by my


And yet how they want to see behind themselves

twisting on their stems to see behind—as if there were a


back there they need, as if it’s a betrayal,

this single forward-facing

Backglancing stirrings,

wedged—in between unsaying and


(“Gulls” by Jorie Graham)

Fill the vase from top to bottom with a lacework of text: Cuneiform blending into Latin into Norse, Greek, Italian, …, English, Chinese… and back again through endless time and space.

He speaks of the long chain back

to the beginning of ‘the world’ (as he calls it) and then, at last,

to the great no

beginning. I feel the no begin.

(“Evolution” by Jorie Graham)

The story ends at the beginning and begins at the end, spiraling down into the past and up into the future. How else could you fit eternity in the finite space of an urn? How else do you end a story without end? The immortal leans back, smears dust across their face and looks around.

*Structure of poetry directly transcribed from Jorie Graham’s book, Never. Poem titles stated in text. 

Photo by Shane Albuquerque on Unsplash

This piece written for the Calvin College graduate’s fiction blog: Presticogitations. Visit there for other great pieces from my fellow alumni! 

SheWolves: A memoir about professional trail crew women and gender

SheWolves: A memoir about professional trail crew women and gender

I stood on a slab of slate, my toes dipping into the edge of an isolated lake. I wore only a bra and underwear. Slanted rays of the setting sun glistened off the still water, broken only by four bobbing heads. I wanted to join them, but the moment I submerged myself… my feet went numb—my lungs constricted. I scrambled out. A chilly breeze nibbled the water droplets from my bare skin; I shivered but remained exposed on the edge for a moment longer.

The week of Babe Crew ended in tears.

I was third to arrive at the trail junction where we let off our loads, cracked a beer, and stretched before the last mile back to the cabin. My load was lighter than usual, but I was still surprised to not be the last one.

After a while, Tits* came stomping up the trail, staggering under her towering pack-frame. Her gear hung off loosely, throwing her off balance. Her eyes were dark, her jaw set in a snarl, her shirt ripped to tatters as if she’d fought a bear. She marched past us and threw down her pack before disappearing behind a few trees where we could only hear her distress.

Candy* wasn’t too far behind, but her face was already streaked with tears. She had torn her shirt in half; the shreds now lay over her shoulders. Their packs were heavy, easily over 100 pounds with the rock-working tools. I had nearly thrown up on the pack-in while carrying the 50-yard, steel cable for the grip hoist which must weigh 50 pounds in itself. I was glad to be carrying the empty lunch bag and buckets—the lightest of our gear—over the steep, rocky five miles back to the cabin.

Apparently, I was the only one in the group who took the actual trail, which is at least a half-mile longer than the shortcut across the river. With the water-levels high and their packs so heavy, each of them had a terrifying story to tell. But they weren’t crying because of fear or pain, they cried for the same reason I cried for the first few weeks of the season: they were ashamed that they weren’t stronger. These women who never complained, who laughed when it stormed, who happily threw an ax into a tree for hours… These women who were the strongest women both physically and in spirit that I had ever met still didn’t think they were good enough.

We finished our hike out together, dropped our packs, and submerged ourselves in the lake, muddy boots and all. Then, we paraded back to the trail cabin with our modified WOMEN WORKING sign as our banner leaving evaporating footprints in our wake. But the boy’s crew hadn’t returned yet, so they did not get to see our spectacular display of tattered and grimy clothes and rats’ nests of hair or our smiles at returning home after a successful week of work.

I’ve never considered myself a feminist, though I’m proud to be female and don’t let it stop me from doing anything. The women I got to work with inspired me in many ways, but their ambitions to be strong seemed a bit misplaced. Rather than praising their own improvements, they continuously compared themselves to the men. They weren’t trying to be strong women—they already were—rather, they were being overcome by the same power play dynamics as the men. This type of feminist isn’t trying to make a place for herself in this world, she’s trying to take The Man’s place. We don’t need women in the roles of men; we need a complete reform of society.

At the end of the season, we took a crew picture. It was tradition to yell at the camera: to raise your ax, flex, and scrunch your face into an fierce, wild snarl—the look of a professional trail worker. We stood on railroad tracks, the mountains rising behind us. We were all teeth and tanned skin taunt with muscle. The men threw their shirts to the side, as did the women boasting their black bras with pride. Before the camera took the last shot, Candy threw off her bra and positioned her double-bit ax before her bare breasts.

From the other side of the lens, you can’t even see Candy’s bare breasts behind her ax.


*Note the trail names used here are not their real trail names, but reflect a similar style, and by no means intend offense. From my experience, there are lots of offensive things said in loving ways between close-knit people. In case you’re curious, over the years I have been called: Ifets, Cloud Whisper, Silent Death, Recycling Guru, Phantom, and Lotto.


Groveling at the Feet of the Shadow

Groveling at the Feet of the Shadow

“I wish you would stay out of my life.” I wanted my voice to rip apart the shadow in front of me, but all I could do was whimper.

I floated on a mirror of sunset orange hues, but the joy, warmth, and encouragement of the sky was lost to me as I grovelled at the feet of the shadow.

The shadow stood with a hand on its hip and said, “I am your life.”

How could I deny it?

I had always been surrounded by dancing colors and vibrant people, but all I brought was darkness. Even here—on a calm lake in the wilderness—here, I was a aphotic zone, an empty void where nothing can survive.

I used to reach for the sky, but I knew now that I could never touch it. All I could have was the feigned image on the surface of the water, and once I broke it, there was no sunset warmth, only icy depths. How many false images had I created? How many beautiful images had I shattered?

Storm clouds billowed over the mountains. The shadow rocked our boat and smiled at the clouds.

The watery mark on the horizon concerned me. I withdrew myself from the painting and breathed. I needed a break. My body felt drenched; my lungs full of ice.

The calm before the storm, they say. They also said painting was meditative, a way to explore your inner demons and express them. I looked at the painting. The shadow stood in the center of the painting, consuming the spot where a sun should be.

“Why do you have to be at the center of everything I do?” The brush in my hand threatened to snap between my fingers; I threw it down splattering paint on the floor. Outside the studio windows a wind was building up under a moonless night. I slammed the door as I escaped into the hall.

Nisa sat beside the door sketching smiles. She drew people she had met, and she remembered every detail about them—she knew their names, their stories, their struggles and joys. Her drawings pulsed with life down to the shading of scars and folds of wrinkles. I refused to let her draw me.

“I told you to go home,” I said and choked. My voice was too loud, too harsh.

“I said I’d wait,” Nisa smiled. “Did you finish it?”

I shrugged. I was done with that painting; it wasn’t worth anymore time since nothing was going to change. All of my pieces looked the same: two dark figures stark in the center of the world. No matter what I did, I couldn’t change my perspective.

Nisa rose on her tip-toes and pecked my cheek. I withdrew from her warmth. No matter what her friends and family said about me, she kept coming back to my side. I told her they were right: I was dangerous. If she got too close to me, she would…

“Can I see it?” she asked.

I waved to the door, and she entered the studio.

She studied my painting and hummed. “I love the contrast! The colors really illuminate and bring focus to the shadows, and the shadows make the sunset look that much brighter.”

Nisa always looked for the good; she was blind to the evil that lurked beneath the surface. She was beautiful, graceful, fragile. As I reached for her, my hand trembled.

The shadow echoed out of the painting into the room, “I will consume her. I will smother all of her light like the storm that darkens the sun.” I staggered back and tripped over a stool.

“Are you okay?” Nisa leaned over me and offered a hand. Branches thrashed against the window, and any moment, the clouds would burst open.

“Would you leave already?!” I cried.

“Zach.” She stood back but didn’t leave. Concern and sorrow that pulled on her face.

“I will end up hurting you, just like everyone else.” I turned away.

“We all have a past. You have to forgive yourself and move forward just trying your best. I know you don’t believe it, but I can see good in you. I love you despite your past.”

“SHUT UP!” Suddenly, that paintbrush was in between my fingers again, and then, it was flying through the air at Nisa’s head. Black and red paint smeared her face as she fell backwards.

Outside lightning crashed. The lights flickered and went out; everything always ends up in darkness, swallowed by the void. There is no escape, only a transient calm before the storm.

Image by bluemoonjools at Pixabay 

Planets Apart

Planets Apart

“While you’re home, will you go through these boxes? I told Dad not to throw them out until you had looked.” Mom pointed to the boxes crammed in the corner of my room–or rather, the new guest bedroom.

“Sure.” I couldn’t even remember what was in those boxes. I had been adding things to them for years—things I didn’t want to lose.

I set aside my laptop and plopped down among the boxes. I tore open the lids and pulled out each item. The first box was from high school, mostly papers full of scratches that had made sense to me at some point, I think. Soon my recycling bin was overflowing and old clothes and books to donate lay strewn about the floor.

In the middle school box, I found a trinket box. The polished wood and elegant carvings seemed out of place among the stuffed animals and toilet paper rolls smothered in star-shaped glitter. A cheap lock from a diary held the latch shut. Whatever I had put in it must have been important, but I couldn’t remember. I easily snapped off the lock and opened the wooden box.

Nestled in a velvety red cloth lay a leather bracelet with seven beads of varying metals each carved with a glyph.

I touched each bead as memories twinkled in the distance. This bracelet made me look like an idiot in sixth grade astronomy. The gold bead was the Sun; silver was the Moon; the swirling iridescent bead representing mercury was the planet Mercury; the rusty iron was Mars. That left copper, tin, and lead. The symbol on copper was for female, so that must be Venus. What were the other two? Alice would know.

Would she still have her bracelet after all these years? We had bought them at a renaissance festival together.

Now, I was craving turkey legs and keg root-beer. Alice hated those; she only ate salad and coffee.

Whatever happened to her anyway? I rolled the beads between my fingers. We had really drifted apart. There had always been space between us; I think I had insisted on matching bracelets hoping that it would tie us together.

We used to spend hours in the woods collecting “ingredients.” I made pixie dust and ink; she made poison and hexes. While I wrote stories about adventures and love, she wrote novels that merged history, science, and Gothic horror in such vivid detail that I eventually had to stop reading them: I was having nightmares. Her drawing was just as vivid and detailed, obviously inherited from her relatives that had drawn the framed portraits around the house. She could even draw a horse. The best thing I could draw was a cube. 

My sister told me to stay away from Alice; she said she was weird. But I didn’t have that many friends, and I wasn’t about to let go of them. She was a good friend. The type of friend that you can call by nicknames, create secret languages, go on adventures, and play games on the bus that no one else understands. 

In high school, I was overwhelmed with studies, and Alice seemed even farther away. She was home schooled now and had friends of another sort. She had switched from novels and realistic drawing to manga. I wished her the best, but I knew nothing about manga. Weren’t they like comics? If nothing else, she still loved Lord of the Rings; now, I could quote the movies just like she had when she introduced me to Tolkien’s world. 

Now, I was studying physics in college and writing for the campus newspaper. I wondered what Alice was doing. 

I tugged on the bracelet, but the band wouldn’t stretch over my hand and it snapped. The planets spun around the room. It took a while, but I found them all and returned them to the wooden box. I would fix it later. 

I was beginning to pack things up when Mom came in with a garbage bag. “Is this garbage?” She reached for the box of loose beads.

“NO!” I lunged across the room and snatched the broken bracelet to my chest. “I’m going to fix it.”

“Are you?” Mom raised an eye brow.

It was an easy fix; I just needed a new string. It was the beads that made the bracelet. 


Photo by Shalom de León on Unsplash

Edited from original submission for YeahWrite 


Taking a Fall

Taking a Fall

I was slipping. My legs trembled on slopers. My left arm wedged between me and the wall. My right hand searched for a secure hold and found none. Seconds. Centimeters. Get it wrong, push my luck, and I’d get hurt. I felt my legs going, so I launched my right hand to the top of the bouldering wall. I felt the rough hold under my fingers and then…

I was curled up on the padded floor eight feet below, my back as tight as stone, whistling air through gritted teeth. With my eyes pinched shut, I floated in darkness aware only of voices around me and the pain in my back.

I was so embarrassed. I’d been climbing for more than five years and bouldering for two years. I’d climbed that exact wall before. I had just completed the route. But I hadn’t thought about coming down: a rooky mistake.

Minutes later, when I had calmed down enough to at least sit up, a climber more experienced than me took the same type of fall. He pulled his knees into his chest and rocked on his back, trying to release the tension; he knew what to do. No doubt, he’d fallen before.

With all extreme sports, you can’t be afraid of falling. For some sports—like sky diving—falling is the whole point!

When I taught myself to skateboard, I started by throwing myself down in the grass and practicing the proper way to use my elbow pads so that I wouldn’t break my wrists or chin when I fell for real. With most things it’s not a matter of if you will fall, but when. It doesn’t matter how much you cling to it, eventually you may slip, loose your balance, or the thing you’re clinging to may crumble.

People cling to crumbling relationships because they’re afraid of what will happen to them if they let go. Will they get hurt if they let go? Probably. But they’re likely to fall anyway, and if they aren’t prepared for the fall, they’re likely to get hurt worse and have a longer recovery.

Still, days later, it was a struggle to stand or walk long distances because my back was so sore. It was really annoying, but what did I expect? Of course it’s going to hurt when you fall eight feet.

I’m not really afraid of heights, but I’m terrified of water. I remember tubing behind a boat with a friend and as we approached a massive wave, she bailed. I would never let go if it meant falling in the water, so the tube flipped over and dragged me underneath. I swallowed so much water. It wasn’t until I intentionally let go a few times, that I became comfortable with falling in the water. I’ve also drifted too far out on currents because I was too afraid to let go of the inflatable tube. Often times, it’s safer to let go and fall when you’re prepared for it rather than holding on until things get too out of hand and the risk of the imminent fall magnifies.

Still, people won’t let go because more than the fear of the pain that may result, falling has a negative connotation in our culture. The first thing people will ask, including yourself, is “What did you do wrong?” Even if it was an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault, even if it wasn’t avoidable. But falling is just a part of life.

In extreme sports, you’re not a real snowboarder, skateboarder, rock climber, or mountain biker unless you’ve taken a couple falls. It’s why you wear a helmet and protection equipment. It’s why you practice the proper way to fall and assess the situation before jumping in and create an emergency plan.

I’m not saying you should go up in a plane with the intention of jumping out (unless you want to). It’s always good to prevent risk when possible, but falling isn’t always a bad thing.

A planned fall is sometimes the safest option when you find yourself in a dangerous or tough situation. Maybe that means moving away or committing to rehab or letting someone you love go to a better place. If you continue to hang on and not plan for it, the fall is going to be way worse for you.

Meditations: Deep Listening

Meditations: Deep Listening

Is it just me, or is communicating super difficult? Listening to others is just as important as listening to yourself. Our inner being longs to understand and be understood, to connect with others. Words can be powerful, but a still tongue and open ears can be just as important.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” James 1:19

The practice of deep listening is similar to the previously discussed sensation walking in that it starts off as passive observation then moves to action and reflection.

First, find an active public space. A mall is a perfect example. Spend the first few minutes emptying yourself of all distractions. Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Let your muscles relax. Make the space your own: adjust the chair, put your feet up, get a hot beverage.

If you’re like me, it’s uncomfortable just being in an open public place with lots of eyes around. Let those negative self-conscious feelings pass away. Accept that you are present and a part of this setting.

Be aware of the space around you and yourself in it.

Close your eyes and clear everything from your mind. Don’t have any expectations or goals, just let what is around you approach you without judging it.

First be aware of motion and movement around you. Is there wind? Rustling? Footsteps?

Then, be aware of the variety of voices (both human and natural): their tone, pitch, pace, rhythm. Listen to words as those words become sentences and merge with other voices to become dialogues. If it helps you focus, jot down the words and dialogues you hear.

Then, extend your observation to your vision. Watch people’s motions and postures. Take it all in without judging.

Meditate on the complexities of speech, centering on the similarities between people.

As you finish, move yourself into the mass of people, greeting those around you with a smile, wave, or word.

If possible, start a dialogue with someone and practice listening as you were before, engaged and focused without judgement as the person talks. Let your focus be on their narrative, focused on them rather than yourself. What is their body language saying? Does it match their words? Their tone? Do you understand what they are truly saying? How can you bring yourself to understand them? Don’t think about how to convince them of something you believe or how to fix their problem. There is time for that later. For now, just listen and let them know that they are heard.

Be aware of your own posture, your eyes, your tone and words and what all of that is saying to the other person. Does it say that you are listening? That you believe this person is worth listening to? Does eye contact make them uncomfortable? Is it appropriate to take their hand or pat their shoulder?

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” ~Jesus

The simple interaction of being listened to can be immensely powerful for people. What if we all took just a few moments each day to truly listen to others? Perhaps we would have less conflict? Perhaps we would have fewer people who feel worthless, insignificant, and hopeless?

Deep listening is a skill that must be practiced often and honed. It requires focus and a wider awareness. It requires one to be still, yet reflective. It builds empathy and patience and understanding.

When you take the time to listen deeply, you not only hear their words, but you learn to hear what their inner voice is crying out–that voice that longs to be understood and connected to others. When you understand how others communicate, you can better understand what they need and what you need to do for your inner voice to reach them. Most of the time, people just want to be heard and acknowledged.