NATASHA THOMAS: Challenging Conversation Corners — In Defense Of Slime-Finders

I gave myself a new nickname today. I kinda like it.

The whole thing started when an acquaintance online made a gardening analogy to assert a belief that I was “looking for problems where there weren’t any” (an argument I’ve heard many times before) when discussing issues of race.

Essentially what this person said was that worms were a reality of any garden — they’re slimy and gross, yes, but if you go looking for them, you’ll never enjoy the garden, to which I responded:

“Some of us have to be slime-finders.”

You wouldn’t tell an exterminator that they’re looking for problems where there aren’t any, would you? You wouldn’t tell a police officer to stop looking for trouble.

Our society needs slime-finders.

Slime-finders are the people who report abuse and damage when they see it. Slime-finders are the people drawing our attentions to dire situations in corners of the world where many of us wouldn’t even think to look and putting their lives on the line to do so. Slime-finders deserve our respect.

Now, of course, there are some credentials required. I wouldn’t tell an exterminator “Nah, you go on, dude, I can handle these cockroaches on my own” any more than I would ask an officer of the law to just hand me his gun and move along. Not everyone can be (or should be) a slime-finder.

Being a slime-finder requires a deep knowledge of the field in which you’re finding slime. It requires a close, trusting, working relationship with the people living in those fields. And it requires a willingness to stay the course and finish the job even if those outside of those fields choose to criticize you for obstructing their garden view.

Being a slime-finder is not an easy task. You see some of the ugliest dirt in environments most people wouldn’t dream of entering. But you see some of the best sides of humanity there, too.

You see people working with great care, often donating their time in public service for these fields in which they’ve dedicated their lives to seeing positive change brought about so no child ever has to feel as though their corner of the world doesn’t matter. You see people living in these fields who truly have nothing to give, yet they offer up places at their dinner tables, embraces, and kind words because they want, no, “need” to be part of the process, to show the slime-finders in their neighborhoods that they are supported in their work.

So, next time you encounter a slime-finder, consider their history — their background, the work that they do in their community. Consider the types of relationships they’re trying to build. And if you don’t know, ask.

Good slime-finders will reveal their goodness to you through the impacts surrounding their actions as well as their words. And when you find a good slime-finder, if you stop to really listen and take note of his or her deeds, you might find their work to be more necessary than you think.

Leave a Reply