by Joy Pearl
(This essay is in response to a prompt asking young people about their feelings living through the COVID-19 pandemic and reckoning with white supremacy after the January 6, 2021 insurrection.)
As I look around at the faces of people who have come into my life recently or a long time ago, I feel at peace. When I think of people who have been there for me at different times in my life — times when I felt like the world was caving in and times I felt on top of the world — I feel supported. My grandma who calls me Sunshine, my godmother Ruth who is the embodiment of tough love, my parents who make sure that I know they are proud of me, my zeiza (grandpa) who always believed in me, and many others. As I look at the room full of people here with me as I write, I love and I am loved. In a world full of hate, I choose love.
I believe in love.
Love is everywhere. As Cornel West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” As I watch people marching with me in the scorching sun, people from all walks of life, fighting for justice and standing up for what they believe in, I understand what he meant. As I watch a mother stoop down, pick up, and hug her crying child, I feel a nostalgic joy thinking of my mom. Love is the warm fuzzy feeling you have when you get a bear hug from your parents — when your friend goes out with you to speak up for what you believe in.
Love is everywhere.
Everyone can love. I believe that whether you are a dog person or a cat person, if you’re LGBTQIA+ or straight, Republican or Democrat, you love someone and are loved by someone. I look at my parents: the way they look at each other every day — like they are each other’s everything, like there is no tomorrow. They love and feel comfortable with each other and they’re themselves. Looking at the person (or pet) you love, who loves you too, you realize you’re home at last. The long journey is over. You’re safe, you’re free, the weight of the world is off your shoulders. The feeling that you can be yourself — you can dance in the rain, you can weep at the moon, you can laugh so hard that you cry; that you can tell them everything, the good and the ugly, and they will stick by you; that you can count on them — that’s love.
I have come to realize that love is forgiving. Love isn’t about the relationship being perfect; it’s about being able to talk, apologize, and forgive. My mom forgives me when I do something wrong and I apologize. You know when you do something wrong and then you say, “My mom’s gonna kill me,” and then you’re really nervous, but once you apologize it’s okay and you feel that rush of immense relief and you live to see another day (maybe you’re grounded but you’re still alive).
Love is forgiving.
As I lay down at night counting the stars and thinking about life, I realize that love is for everyone, it is everywhere, and it is something we all have in common. Love encourages; love seeks justice for others. If we all love each other, then we will have a more encouraging, accepting world and be less inclined to war and prejudice.
I believe in love.
Joy Pearl is a 13-year-old student at Islander Middle School. She immigrated to the United States from Uganda with her mother in 2019 and has lived in California, Arizona, and now Washington with her parents, Monica and Paul Benz. Her favorite passions are reading, singing, and modeling (which she hopes to be able to pursue). She hopes to one day attend Oxford or Harvard to study medicine or law.
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