“Fear is a luxury we don’t get to spend time with” – Nadine Smith

My whole life, I’ve seen fear in action as it prompts people to act based on a primal instinct to beware of the unknown. When we feel afraid, our fight or flight kicks in, and we can watch as people who want no part of the unknown turn away while others want in on the action. However, it’s too easy to demonize what is unknown. The harder path may be challenging, but sometimes we must travel down it to do the next right thing.

When we choose to act out of fear, those actions too often hurt people and not just who the fear is targeting. It often wounds many more. The collective community does not benefit. The actions we see when those in power use fear as a tool sends a message, and it’s not a positive one. People, given the opportunity, can intentionally use fear to create feelings to trigger a fight or flight response. This tactic is not new and can guide people to actions they want to see.

Today in Florida, we are witnessing fear as a tactic that is harming the community. Books, children’s books, are being banned all across the state. When I heard about this, I learned that the book And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell was banned because two male penguins found and raised a penguin egg. This is devastating as it forces kids from same-sex marriages to see their families erased and viewed as unvaluable.

There is a disconnect that’s happening here. Why don’t we read the book and allow people to think for themselves? It is illogical to deny people the right to be curious and discover things for themselves.

In the philanthropic sector, we need to be aware of the fear our communities face. With our empathy antennas high up, we can recognize where someone is at on any given day and, therefore, what support they need. We also have the opportunity to create safe spaces, advocate for those living in fear, and create innovative pathways to move the needle forward. Whether that’s distributing books to children, hosting a family fun night, or providing additional programs, that extra intentional connection can make a meaningful difference.

The trauma this fear inflicts on children and their families is why fear is a luxury we can’t afford. We cannot let our emotion of fear control our actions any more than we should let anger or jealousy control our actions. It’s okay to feel them, but it’s not okay to react out of them. We can invite people who are afraid to be curious and explore what they don’t know. It would be irresponsible to promote jumping to conclusions without being able to learn first. Though this path may be bolder and more challenging, I believe it is the path that elicits thinking, allowing for a response rather than triggering a reaction. At the center of this path, we must remember the beauty of curiosity is discovering the unknown.

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