By DaiJhah Owens
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I have built the foundation of my life on this word. Empathy is me. Empathy is the reason I went into the field of public service. I’ve dedicated my life to making a better world for those around me (both professionally and personally). It is no surprise that I find myself constantly in awe of the lack of humanity within our own political systems. Our government systems consistently show us that there is a price tag on the value of human life. So, knowing what I know about how the government works, I often wonder how do I make a lasting impact when at the end of the day, the system I work for is meant to fail, It wasn’t meant to be changed, or improved; it was meant to maintain the status quo.
I have a feeling I’m not the only person who feels this way. There is a special place in heaven for those of us who enter into the public service field. Lord, have mercy on us all! Whether it’s education, government agencies, or non-profit organizations, we chose our careers because we wanted to make life better for someone else. I went into public service because I felt it was the best way to make a meaningful impact in the lives of those who needed it most. I never imagined when I first started that I would face so many obstacles that are mostly because of bad policies. From day one, those of us who choose this career path are told, “You will be overworked, underpaid, underfunded, and unsupported.” So far, no truer words have been spoken! It’s like the powers that be are saying, “You can help, just not too much.”
My heart broke every time I’ve had to tell a survivor of domestic violence that their abuser wasn’t getting any jail time. That the laws in our state (and most states) classify domestic violence as a misdemeanor. That I couldn’t look her in her eyes because I knew from the beginning the system would fail her. My heart broke every time I had to tell a homeless woman fleeing an abusive husband that we weren’t able to accept her into our shelter because we lacked the space and resources to help her. I’ll never know if these women received healing or closure, or if they’re even still alive.
There are too many stories like these. Not just from my experience but from my other fellow public servants. Because we can’t act outside of what the law and policies allow, we are stuck feeling like we can only make so much of a difference.
In my short amount of time in this fight, I have learned that the only impact you may ever make is the hope you give one person to keep going. We must find peace with that. We must do our very best to help those we can, and pray for peace for those we can’t help.
I’m on a personal quest to find peace with the lives I am able to positively impact today while continuing the fight for a better tomorrow. I know the road can be dark; I feel discouraged every day, but I encourage you to press on, my friends. That one person’s life depends on it!
DaiJhah Owens is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!