I am continually amazed, shocked and blown away by people and their actions on a weekly; no let’s make that daily, yes, a daily basis. For example, when I come in on a Monday morning and hear stories from authorities or agencies about a new case of trafficking or at lunchtime when I want to heat up my leftovers and find that our microwave is broken, I just have to ask the question, “Really??” …Obviously some realities are harder to swallow than others, but the question "Really??" has become a source of sanity.
The root of the word really is real.
When you know something is happening for real and someone acts in a way that suggests that what you know is real isn’t reality that’s when you need the question: “Really??” Or when someone does something so outrageous and ridiculous that it’s hard to believe it’s reality, you need the question: “Really??” I found myself asking this question so much that a friend and I started to joke that it would be funny if I had a teddy bear I could squeeze that would ask: “Really??” You know, the kind you get from the Build a Bear Workshop where you can put recorded voices in the hands?
The next day, I decided to incorporate the idea of a REALLY Bear into my trainings and found that many people could relate to this imaginary bear. It brings lots of laughs from participants and helps them to engage and connect at the trainings. The REALLY Bear, I found, breaks the tension of such a hard dose of reality.
Last week, I received one of the most amazing and thoughtful gifts from some trainees. It was REALLY Bear! His name is Roger Really and when you squeeze him he asks the question, “Really??” …dripping with the perfect attitude; softened by a cuddly yet professional appearance in a tie.
The Love146 lunch table is generally a place for some pretty silly conversations. But today it got real and it prompted me to bring out Roger Really. I was informing staff about a high school I am scheduled to go into had sent out letters/permission slips home to parents to inform them about Love146, the issue of trafficking and how important an issue it is for their kids to learn about it. It gave parents the opportunity to opt their child out of the program and the child would be given an alternate assignment. I was in touch with some of the school officials today who said parents are already opting their kids out of the program. These parents are saying child sex trafficking is not a problem.
I was immediately frustrated and perplexed. It is a shame that I am so accustomed to how real and prevalent a reality this is and I realize not everyone else is. But all I kept saying in my head was “C’mon, really??” What’s even more frustrating is that knowing, in reality, there have been recent confirmed cases of child trafficking happening in the very town where the school is located. Really.
Lamont Hiebert, co-founder of Love146, always asks the kids when we go into schools, “Are we going to bury our heads in the sand and act like this doesn’t exist or should we talk real about this?” What happened today, goes to show how important awareness and education are. It’s so important not bury our heads in the sand. This problem is real and our kids really need to be defended and empowered.
Let’s acknowledge the reality of this problem, create awareness, and stop another child from being trafficked. Otherwise, Roger Really is going to get really upset. Really?? Really.
Nicole von Oy, MSW, is Love146's Training & Outreach Coordinator. Read more about our U.S. Programs here.