Originally published at carletonjhr.com (text)
Featured in documentary published at carletonjhr.com
Performed at: London Poetry Slam, Youth in Unison (Guelph), Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam, CapSlam (Ottawa), Urban Legends (Ottawa)
I used to get too many paper cuts.
I thought that if I read enough documents, newspapers and laws
I could understand how the world works, understand how I could change it.
I can recite all the statistics about child labour in India.
I can explain to you the logistics behind the cycle of poverty in Africa.
But “local poverty” and “child abuse” were terms never quite recognizable in my vocabulary until I met a boy.
He had teeth that were crooked but seemed to fit his smile just right.
Big, blue eyes would stare up at me with a glimmer of mistrust that I knew most seven-year-olds weren’t supposed to have.
All I could do was look into those eyes and wonder,
why his fingernails were always covered in a permanent layer of dirt rather than sand from the playground,
Wonder why his eyes would tear up and begin a staring contest with the ground at the mention of home.
When I asked if he’d had lunch yet he replied:
“No I ate yesterday, my Mom goes shopping tonight.”
Which is when I realized “local poverty” and “child abuse” are not just empty words that form facts that people like me can recite and pretend we suddenly understand.
Just like I never understood suicide bombers in the Middle East.
I never cared to understand why someone would want to do that to themselves until I met a girl.
She would sleep as an escape because everyday she’d have to wake up and play a new game of hide and seek
From the bully who always found a way to catch her, who’d beat her self-confidence until she had nothing left,
The bully she called her life.
She was wearing a T-shirt when I saw the patterns carved so carefully into her arms drawn one too many times,
like they were just stencils daring her to fill in the lines that she knew were already broken.
Depression, was a word who’s definition was as clear to me as the static on the television during a thunderstorm.
Yet it was as real as the thunder booming like bombs, impossible to ignore.
I tried to ignore,
the number of paper cuts I used to get.
From reading so many different documents trying so hard to understand them,
The same documents politicians and teachers would thrust into my hands telling me I can’t change them, so why try?
I once heard a wise man say
“There is no such thing as a world, only seven billion different understandings of it.”
Which leads me to believe, I can’t change the world I see in the newspaper,
But I can change people.
I didn’t understand until I met a boy, until a met a girl who let me change their life.
When I think of changing the world-
I don’t think of child labourers in India, or starving families in Africa,
I think of big, blue, eyes
I think of the girl with patterns traced into her arms, too afraid to be beautiful.
We all have problems.
We all live in our own different world, and there are seven billion out there, chances are we can change one.
We can tell someone we love them,
Show them we care,
Explain how they’re beautiful,
Make someone happy.
If you ever think, you can’t change the world-
Put down your newspaper and look at the people around you.
Maybe you already have.