Published on December 19th, 2012 | by Curtis E. Lay0
Curtis E Lay by Jules Doyle
A Wish for Love, Peace, and Safety
The creators of this site called it “DerbyLife.” I have no doubt that they chose the name based not just on the “derby” part of it, but also the “life” part, and perhaps most importantly, the “derby-life” part, the way the two parts intersect and interact and blur.
All the same, most of the posts here, including my own, skew toward the “derby” part.
I don’t know if I’m the right person to do this, but I want to write about something very different: the horror that took place at the elementary school in Connecticut last week. It’s not about “derby,” but it is about “life,” the part that got equal billing in the site’s name, and maybe I can even find where the “derby-life” intersection is.
Come to think of it, I know I’m not the right person to write this. I do not know any of the victims or their families, and I can’t begin to imagine their pain. I am not a parent. I don’t know anything about guns. I live nowhere near the city of Newtown…or Tucson, or Aurora Colorado, or Oak Creek Wisconsin, or Virginia Tech, or Fort Hood, or…sigh.
So why am I writing this, and why am I submitting it to DerbyLife? I don’t know. Maybe I just wanted to make sure that someone tried. Maybe it’s just my doe-eyed nature. Maybe I just wanted to tell you, person who happened to click on this, even if I don’t know you, that someone out there in the derby community is thinking about you.
Yesterday, I spent a long time looking at the pictures and profiles of the children and the women who were killed. I listened to my coworkers talk about how they were afraid to drop their kids off at school Monday morning. I thought about my mom, who taught for twenty years in a small-town public school. I thought about my circles of friends, including my derby circle.
I thought of skaters and officials I know who are teachers…who are parents…who are from any particular walk of life. One of the joys of derby is how random our backgrounds seem to be; oddly, one of the most chilling things about these mass shootings is their randomness…a school, a mall, a temple, a restaurant. I thought of the youngest derby fans, those adorable kids who come to bouts and wear temporary tattoos and smile and scream their hearts out and ask skaters for autographs.
And I thought about myself, and how accountable I am to make sure that things like this don’t happen anymore…how accountable I am to be part of the “change” that certainly needs to take place in the wake of last Friday. I’m not nearly smart or wise enough to have solutions, but I do think there are tangible ways we can respond positively, regardless of our political dispositions. Some of the responses seem to fall in that “derby-life” intersection, and I’d like to share them.
First, be there for your league mates, right now and from now on. Anyone who has experienced trauma in their lives (odds are, a giant percentage of your league) is very likely going through a time of great turmoil right now; tragedy reopens wounds, and many people suffer quietly in deference to those whose pain is more recent or acute. Consider that. Add a bit of empathy and compassion to your interactions, and watch for signs of people who need help, even if that help is just in the form of a smile or a respectful gesture. Do that today. Do it next week too. And after that. And then again later. Repeat if necessary. Repeat just because. Our memory of other peoples’ pain fades far faster than their pain does; remember that. Be there for them.
Second, modern roller derby is deeply rooted in local community. It is the fastest growing sport precisely because it appeals to so many people in cities, suburbs, and small towns, and its doors and arms are open to people from all backgrounds and skill levels. Its players come from all walks of life, as I said above. There is tremendous, affirming power in that grassroots good will. A natural disaster, or difficult economic times, or even an incredibly sick person can deal a grievous blow to a community. But, the community’s fabric is always stronger. Derby leagues are deeply woven into that community fabric. Do something for your community. And don’t wait for something bad to happen to it first.
Finally, something I’ve often said and that I truly believe is that, deep down, everyone in roller derby wants everyone else to succeed…sure you don’t want your opponent to win the game you’re both playing, but think about how supportive the atmosphere can be at a clinic or a pick-up scrimmage or a challenge bout. Wanting others to succeed is a part of derby. It is also a part of life.
It is a part of derby-life.
We can’t help everyone else succeed in all aspects of life, any more than we can right all of society’s ills or undo monstrous crimes or cure some debilitating mental illnesses. But, we can certainly let the people in our world know that their success matters to us. That they are important. That they are remembered. And that they are loved. Just like you are.
Be safe, everyone.