soft white underbelly: mike

soft white underbelly is a youtube video series that brings a human face and voice to folks on the margins of every day life: drug addicts, sex offenders, homeless people, folks who have lived in remote rural locations. each video is an interview with minimal questions and maximal time for the subject to share their stories and tell you about their life. there is no fancy studio set with expensive lighting – these are stark and plain, which allows the person and the life and the story to be the only thing for you to focus on.

to me, this is an amazing series that gives people a look into lives that are easy to ignore, and each interview helps you understand our lives and where we end up as a function of the choices that we make and the choices that are made for us. there’s some talk of regret, of things that might have gone differently if a different choice were made, but mostly these interviews are about how people find peace and meaning in their existences.

there’s also no judgment in these interviews. the person asking the questions simply asks and listens – maybe exclaims “wow” now and then, or prompts the speaker to talk about how a certain event felt – and clearly wants the story to be told and the person to be heard and respected as a human being. along the way, you get a glimpse into how the legal system functions, how money and privilege can change the outcome of a scenario, and how one little difference in somebody‚Äôs life can have an impact that lasts far beyond what anyone could have imagined

what I like about “mike” in particular is how forgiveness comes up, and how he struggles to distinguish between between who somebody is and something that they did, particularly when the something they did is out of character or especially hurtful. forgiveness is a really hard thing for people to understand, but i think when you start hearing peoples stories it becomes easier to understand how they could ask for forgiveness, and easier to offer it with a peaceful heart.

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