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Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin after witnessing his parents’ deaths as an infant. The Dursleys provide the worst home environment imagination. Mostly ignored, Harry sleeps in the cupboard under the stairs with spiders, the other unwanted species in the house. He learns early that his adoptive family does not welcome questions. Early on, the book notes, “Don’t ask questions – that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys.” Harry first realizes this when he asks Aunt Petunia about the scar on his forehead and only finds out the truth later from a stranger. Though they may bring up uncomfortable conversations, questions play a crucial role in developing relationships as well as forming an identity and values.

Harry’s aunt and uncle deny him a lot more than his physical needs. They neglect him as a person, and provide him not only no familial bonds but no sense of himself either. Wondering what happened to his parents leaves a gap in Harry’s heart. The brush offs regarding his questions do not give him a route to learn about his own history, let alone forge his own identity. They also do not ask him questions, making it easy to gloss over the fact that they do not give Harry what he needs as a child. When they don’t ask if he got enough food after losing half his meal, they don’t have to acknowledge he may go hungry.

These scenarios play out in everyday life too. Rather than ask for more details, we assume someone can manage just fine. Not knowing someone could use help makes it easier to tell ourselves we don’t need to offer any. Guessing the answer to someone’s question or brushing it off as unimportant invites shame or distances trust because that person hears they struggle with a task simple to everyone else. Instead of pushing off the discomfort, let’s welcome the potential to grow from questions. Sorting through the answers can launch numerous positive aspects like a stronger sense of self, a deeper bond between the people discussing and a higher level of understanding.