There has been so much going on in my mind lately that I’ve struggled to find words for this space. I felt no doubt that I would begin writing only to have far more spill onto the page than I wanted to share. I am mostly an open book, but my loved ones aren’t. I have to respect that.
Some of you who subscribe to this blog via email, may have received a post (twice) that I published, then deleted, then published, then deleted again. I tried to talk about self-reflection and things I have learned about myself lately, but the truth is that those things are changing every day and it just didn’t feel right to leave the words stuck on this page when my life is so fluid.
But, there is NO WAY I would stay silent on the matter of Bay Village and the 14-year old, special needs boy who was duped into doing an ALS ice bucket challenge. In case you haven’t heard, the bucket wasn’t full of ice water, it was full of feces, urine and saliva. I hope the criminals face swift and harsh punishment and I hope that when they’re finished with this life and face another, the punishment is eternal. It’s not my job to judge them, but I’m free to have an opinion.
This incident is at the heart of what I’ve struggled with lately; where is kindness? Is it really that hard to share good will and to treat others as you want to be treated? Why do we struggle to love, give and understand – to fight against ignorance, hate and judgement? Can’t we just be nice to one another? I think we can if we take the right steps.
1. Educate yourself. Kindness starts with you and if you think you’re witnessing injustice or think you may be guilty of perpetrating it, read about the topic. Part of my self-reflection is being honest with myself that I haven’t been my best self, so I went to the library and got two books about how to fix it. I’ve read dozens of articles, too. I’m a work-in-progress, but at least I’m looking for answers.
2. Educate your children. Insist they read books about people who face struggles and let them know they can make a difference simply by understanding that people are different. Tell them that it’s never okay to be disrespectful. You can voice an opinion without name-calling or bullying.
3. Smile more. Smile at the mailman, the cashier at Target, your spouse, your children, the stranger in the park and the woman in the car next to you at the traffic light. We’re all in this together. Spread a little light.
4. Have faith in people. Believe that people are good and find goodness in them. If you’re lucky, you may even draw it out of them and you’ll no longer have to search for it.
5. Lift someone up. It’s hard to be angry when someone is showing you kindness. Once you find the goodness in a person, tell them so. Let them know you’re thinking of them, you appreciate them or you’re proud of them. Compliments feel just as good to give as they do to get.
6. Use your network. Share stories like the one about this 14-year old boy with your friends and family. The more we talk about the pain we see and feel, the more aware we become. After that, refer to #1.
7. Listen. When you don’t have the words or the means, do a lot of listening. You don’t always have to say something. You don’t have to fight every fight. As a matter of fact, you can’t.
8. Be the friend you would call in a crisis. We’re all busy. We all have stress and crazy schedules with no time to ourselves, but if your car broke down and you needed a ride, wouldn’t it be great to know you could call someone and they’d be there. Be that person. Let people count on you.
9. Share your love. Tell your friends and family you love them. Don’t be scared of the word. When people feel loved, they are less likely to act out.
10. Don’t tolerate bullying. Ever. Not in your house, not in your schools, not in your neighborhood. Insist upon consequences and if the adults in charge don’t make something happen, they should face consequences too. Vote. Use your voice. Write a letter to the editor. Start an online forum. Start a petition on Facebook. Stand up for what’s right.
There really is goodness in all of us, but sometimes we need help finding it when it’s buried under shock and pain. Find your virtue, then show it to others and maybe it will spread. Let’s stop standing around, wishing for a kinder world. Let’s make it happen.
I woke up early this morning and thought (because it’s all-consuming right now) about this move to a new home. This time it wasn’t the sentimentality that hit me – I’ve come to terms with the fact that we’re leaving our house of 17 years and it doesn’t matter where we are, as long as we are together we will make it a home. That’s sappier than a pine tree, but true.
And, it wasn’t about the work going on in the house – we’ve finished tearing out carpet, landscaping, a good friend installed a new shower, the painters are almost finished, new floors will be down by the end of the week – I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It was about karma and how, as Justin Timberlake so eloquently says, “What goes around comes back around.” I love it when he gets philosophical.
I’d like to say that when I was young I was the picture of manners and kindness, but as kids can be, I was occasionally mean. I didn’t say things to anyone’s face, but I did make fun of a few peers behind their backs. I still feel guilty about it 30+ years later. Kids, what you say to other people affects YOU, too. I was a jerk so you don’t have to be.
One of the fellow students I used to talk about was a boy who sat across from me in 7th grade art class. I made fun of him because he growled at me. Now, I have a son who growls, barks, chirps, flaps, and sometimes exhales so loudly that it sounds like there couldn’t be ONE BIT of air remaining in his lungs. That right there? Karma.
Then in high school, I gossiped about a girl who I thought was overly dramatic. I am now a blogger, so I’m pretty sure that covers the karma department, but last night my husband and I made a very overpriced offer on her current home. When I wrong someone, I pay them back in the 10s of thousands.
So, this morning as I thought of how things feel right and are falling into place because they are supposed to, I heard my husband yelling from the hall bath. I ran in to find one of the kids had clogged the toilet during the night and it was overflowing. There was an inch of water on the bathroom floor and I suddenly heard a familiar dripping sound in the kitchen downstairs.
I ran down to find water pouring through the FRESHLY PRIMED AND PAINTED kitchen ceiling. Never mind the soaking wet counter, cabinets, floor, appliances and cell phone, but the ceiling! I never did anything bad to someone’s kitchen ceiling! What kind of fresh karma is this?
Now that things are cleaned up and I’m bracing myself for the painter’s reaction, I’m wondering what will be coming back to me for the filthy cuss words that were flying from my mouth when I looked up and saw that ceiling. Because suddenly I’m thinking that a bird pooping squarely on my tongue is not going to be out of the question.
When I was a teenager my life was, quite frankly, a mess. I won’t go into details, because that isn’t what matters now. What I will say is that I was existing, but not living or experiencing much beauty. I felt unloved, I was in an abusive relationship, and had a lot on my plate. Depression is a terrible, debilitating beast and I found myself deep in its clutches.
I managed to climb out with the help of three things; a great teacher, extended family and, you may not believe this, but it’s true, Dead Poet’s Society.
The words of my English teacher, “…you write well” were still fresh in my mind when I saw that movie and I witnessed characters on the screen who were so much like me. They were young, struggling and in pain, but great writing and a teacher sparked something in them that they didn’t know existed.
My first English essay in college began with a quote from Dead Poet’s Society. I still remember handing in the paper, fresh from the dot-matrix printer, and feeling confident about my written words. I don’t know if I would have been able to write anything were it not for that film and the inspiration it gave me.
There is a scene in that movie where a character, Neil, commits suicide and I remember the sheer pain expressed by the actors who played his parents as they run into the room and find him lying dead. I remember thinking how much someone would have to be suffering to knowingly cause their loved ones that kind of devastation.
I am feeling such twisted emotions over the loss of Robin Williams. I am heartbroken that he was tortured by depression, I am saddened that we will no longer be entertained by his genius, and I am so grateful that he made a movie that touched me in such a tremendous way. Rest peacefully, my Captain.