I find myself in the square of the main church here in Milan, trying to do some discreet people watching. I suppose staring at people for hours while you try not to look sketchy as you write things down doesn't always work. On top of that, my wardrobe screams, "look at me!" Sort of. It's just the boots and bag attract attention in a place as name brand conscious as Milan. My lovely yellow scarf doesn't exactly blend into the dirty concrete on which I'm sitting either.
But I digress. This self given assignment isn't about others watching me, but about me watching others. "The other", to be exact. With all of the soul searching I've been up to lately I needed to do something. Sure, I received healing with regards to my own personal connection to slavery, but I've been aware for some time now that there is another form of modern slavery running rampant and receiving even less attention than the transatlantic slave trade.
Looking at this situation I am being made more and more aware of how limiting personal pain can be. While I've been moping around about something that happened centuries ago (to be fair to myself, I must acknowledge that there are still the aftereffects to contend with), there were people being trafficked into all kinds of horrific forms of modern slavery right under my stuck up nose. But I speak for myself. Someone else might have taken their personal pain and used it as fuel in the fight against the modern day slave trade. That's all fine and well except for the fact that I don't want the work I do to be fueled by pain and hatred. What good could possibly come of that, in the long run? For sure I'd burn out or lose effectiveness as the bitterness consumed me.
Back to the task at hand.
I am people watching. I am watching the people who no one pays any attention to, and I am waiting. In a sense, I am putting myself in a place to receive divine appointments. Many of the African immigrants here in Milan feel comfortable coming up to me. They ask me what I think about the city, how I like it. They take the time to listen to me, while I've just been breezing by, missing out on deeper connections. But I want to slow down now, and I've determined that now it's my time to listen. I may not be particularly trained at dealing with people who reside on the fringes of society, but clearly that hasn't mattered.
I know that I can listen, I can ask questions as well as answer them, and I can write. It's time to write about someone else's experiences now, though in typical egotistical human nature fashion the connection of this project to myself is incredibly obvious. I think in some way all of our creative outputs are a reflection of ourselves. Really, it's only our lives that we live, but part of the beauty of living is intersecting with other lived lives.
So this creative effort here is both a step into the new and an exploration of my past. Here we go!