I have the privileged role of accompanying my school community in becoming more trauma-informed. This work has felt more poignant as we exist in this collective moment of trauma. In her TED talk given in 2014, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris described the experience of trauma as that of encountering a bear in the woods. Our fight or flight response serves to protect us in this life or death situation. She then invites the audience to imagine living with this bear, waiting for the bear to come home every day. The ongoing impact of chronic stress is what we have globally faced over the course of this last year. Yet, Dr. Burke Harris’ work on adverse childhood experiences highlights the reality that these situations have long been present for so many in the U.S., especially within BIPOC communities. The inequities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the pandemic of systemic racism show how BIPOC communities have had to “live with the bear” for far longer than these last twelve months.
One of the most important ways that we work on being trauma-informed is through the power of relationships. Relationships are critical in helping those who have been faced with adversity. Over the course of these last twelve months, the strength of relationships can be seen in communities coming together to support their neighbors through mutual aid societies, through activists organizing to advocate for greater equity in vaccine distributions and resource allocations.
Today’s reading from Isaiah speaks of hope-filled days for those who have been living lost in exile—the restoration of Israel, healing of relationships, once lost and broken. For many of us, we have long been waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel, the light of greater justice to be celebrated for all. For the Israelites, that hope comes from God’s steadfast love, God’s reassurance that they are not forgotten, they are not forsaken. We have the power to respond to this moment of collective trauma, to bear witness of God’s steadfast love for us, through remembering our kinship to one another. In remembering that we belong to one another, we can be the healing relationships responding to this moment of collective trauma.
- Who in your community is facing adversity due to the pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism?
- How are you being called to deepen your relationship with those facing adversity?
- How might you be a beacon of God’s steadfast love to those whom you have named?
Marcos Gonzales serves as the director of trauma-informed education at Chicago Jesuit Academy. His pursuit of a faith that does justice has taken him from the islands of Micronesia as a Jesuit Volunteer to the streets of Los Angeles working at Homeboy Industries as a case manager. He received his BA in theology and master’s in education from Loyola Marymount University and completed his master’s in social work at Loyola University Chicago.