Have you ever met someone who is just amazing at remembering names?
That person who you met once 3 years ago, who remembers your name as soon as they see your face. And you feel bad as you frantically skim your internal Rolodex trying to remember their name.
That’s Ash. Ash remembers everyone’s name. Even people she briefly meets. She often remembers details about them too. “Yeah we met that one time last year. You were wearing a red sweater and we talked about the election.”
“How do you do that?” I asked her once.
She shrugged. But in the next breath she said “No one ever remembers me. So I just want to make sure I always remember other people.”
Ash only shares snippets from her childhood. But these snippets show a lot of trauma. She told me once “I grew up feeling like a consequence…the result of my mom’s bad decision. I was bounced around between relatives. And they always made sure I knew what I was – a consequence.”
She did not have loving, supportive people in her life. In fact, she had a lot of people in her life who actively hurt her.
Yet she makes an effort to treat people with respect and love. She greets people by name, with a smile and usually a hug.
“I don’t think anyone would blame you for completely giving up on people. But you haven’t – that’s pretty incredible.” I said.
“Have you ever heard of the 52 hertz whale?” She asked me – I shook my head no.
“You know how whales communicate with each other using sounds frequencies? Well there is this one whale that has a frequency of 52 hertz. It’s the only whale in the ocean with this sound. So no other whales can hear it. It’s called the loneliest whale because it swims around all alone because no other whales can hear it.
Sometimes I feel like that whale, like I’m destined to be alone. But then I watched a documentary on it. And even though it’s been alone all its life, it keeps calling out as it swims around the ocean. It keeps looking for other whales who can hear it. It doesn’t give up. So I guess I’m like that. I haven’t given up.” she said.
Sometimes when I meet with a youth I feel like I am meeting with a wise elder who is teaching me valuable life lessons. The resilience in Ash is astounding, and her willingness to connect with people despite what she’s been through brings so much hope in a world that is often so disconnected.