“You Don’t Know How it Feels,” by Tom Petty came on the radio the other day while I was driving. Typically, I crank it up and belt out the lyrics – yes, I am HUGE Tom Petty fan. That day though, I couldn’t do it; I just sat there in silence listening.

You see, I heard it after the untimely and unfortunate deaths of Jess Thornell and Clint Vance.

The lyrics were even more resonating and impactful than any other time I’ve heard that song – including the first time.

As I have shared before I am typically misunderstood – even by my parents and that is why I belt out the lyrics – to release all the emotions attached to being me, trying to fulfill each role I am in life.

The reality is, none of truly understand what it’s like to be someone else. Rarely do we ever take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes. We project pieces of ourselves onto other and then judge and critique based upon that.

Each of us have experienced something traumatic.

Those personal traumas should never be up for comparison - it’s all relative.

I graduated from IPFW with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2016. At that time, I had an eight-month-old baby and four older children. Additionally, I worked a part-time job. I distinctly remember venting on Facebook how infuriating it was that my younger classmates barely kept up with the workload and earned borderline passing grades all while complaining that college was just too much to handle.

A dear friend reminded me that just because you can do it well, or even just do it, doesn’t mean the next person can – it’s all relative. Their struggles are equally significant as mine even though they are different.

Jess Thornell and Clint Vance were both shining stars. Their lives ended abruptly. They each were in a dark place – no one of knew it. No one will ever have the opportunity to know why or how they got to that dark place – despite all of the speculations.

We cannot know how it felt to be them, but we can be different and we can be light that someone needs.

We can start by being kind. Our speech is the indicator of not only what we feel and believe, but it is the strongest indicator of how we present ourselves. Our actions must follow suit. We can create safe and healthy environments by also learning and teaching the tools necessary to process emotions and traumatic experiences.

The memorials have been written and spoken.

The yellow shirts have been worn.

The yellow balloons have been released.

Those each deserve attention because they are acts of kindness and love. But, now its time to do the real work.

How are we speaking to each other or about each other?

How are we listening to each other?

How accepting are we truly being?

What tools are we giving communities?

We know better. We absolutely and necessarily need to do better.

While we may not know how it feels to be someone else we know how we want to be treated and we know how to be kind.