It wasn’t the only time I was the target of bullying by that particular group of boys, and it wasn’t the worst incident over the years, but that summer day (was I 10 years old? 11?), as I rode my bike on the sidewalk past the house of one of them, he ordered his large German Shepherd to attack me, and the other boys cheered the command. The dog—obedient, loyal, interested in moving vehicles and available drumsticks—came after me, knocked me off my bike, bit me in the calf with a pounce and a growl. As I collected my scattered self to escape, I looked them in the eyes, that group of boys, and I saw—although I couldn’t have named it as such then—their essential weakness, their crude actions, their emboldened meanness. I saw that I was not safe.
In the kitchen today, sunlight flooding through the window over the sink, I was basking in gratitude for the events of this week, an abundant accumulation of personal, professional, and public moments, all of which added their own light and glow to my thinking, and I realized: I’m feeling happy and relieved right now, yes, but mostly this ease in my shoulders, this light rhythm of meal preparation, are because I feel safe, in such contrast to the past four years. Part of what I’m seeing in a youth poet laureate, in new leaders’ faces, what I’m reading in appointments and executive orders, is concern and kindness—for all Americans, for all world citizens, for the earth itself. The people (leaders themselves, and all of us) are imperfect, the processes ahead will be messy, the results probably not as progressive as I would like, but I’m hopeful that in the combination of deep kindness and informed reason, we can find our way forward, together.