Maybe it’s because I’m really sensitive to everything these days, what with the Bebe hormones coursing through my veins.
Maybe it’s because the holidays are coming and a lot of people are talking about benevolence and kindness because it’s the time of year in which we are obligated to do so.
Maybe it’s that cloak of anonymity people put on that allows them to say rude, hurtful things online and use crude gestures while driving.
But to me it seems like we need to reorient and remember that we’re living among human beings who started their lives out in the exact same way that we did: cold, naked, crying, and vulnerable. And all those human beings deserve courtesy. They may have done absolutely nothing whatsoever to earn our kindness, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with our granting it.
And it’s not about begrudgingly smiling at someone through clenched teeth when they offend you, simply because you think that’s the right thing to do, although it’s a start. It’s about having an attitude of peace and openness, no matter what situation you find yourself in.
Few people would disagree that it’s the most vulnerable among us who need respect the most but who are least likely to get it. But thinking and actually practicing that are two very different things. On Saturday, B and I went to Subway; yeah, I was having a very pregnant day. When we left the sandwich shop, a family of four was leaving at the same time. They walked to their car which was parked next to ours and the mom said,
“Jeffrey, if you (f-word) sit in my seat again, I will seriously whip your ass right here.”
I was jarred. How could a parent say such a hateful thing to her five-year-old? How can a child hear that kind of thing and feel secure?
When we got in our car, I said to B, “Let’s be really sure to talk to Bebe like that all the time after she’s born so she’ll always know that threatening the people who are closest to you is a sure way to demonstrate your love. And dominance.”
He looked at me with That Look that says, “You don’t know what the situation is. Have a little benevolence.”
I kept thinking about it for the rest of the day. How can you talk to a child that way? I don’t care what kind of a miserable day/life that woman was having; there is no excuse for that kind of hatefulness, especially when it’s aimed at a kid. And how could B not be more upset? I was fuming.
I started planning the post I would write to obliquely get even with that mom who clearly didn’t know how to parent whatsoever. It was going to be really cathartic for me. I am the one who matters the most in the whole situation, after all.
But this morning, after thinking all day Sunday about how we (key word there) should go through the motions of being kind, benevolent, and understanding, and how it’s the people who are hardest to love that need love the most, it finally occurred to me that I really had it all backwards. Now is not the time for blanket statements on how all humanity should do something. Now is the time for me to start taking my own advice and applying my own lofty ideals to my perception.
It’s time for me to love the woman in the Subway parking lot even though it’s not easy. That doesn’t mean I have to excuse her for the words she used, but it does mean that I shouldn’t judge her based on them. Because judging her was exactly what I was doing. When I heard her say those words, a big mixed bag of assumptions about who she was, what her habits were, and how much school she had completed immediately popped into my head. Those assumptions served as an excuse for me to foment hostility towards her.
Hostility doesn’t feel good. Being nice does feel good. However, I don’t think that’s why I should behave or react a certain way. That seems a teensy bit too subjective. I am going to be nicer and more forgiving because I really have no good reason not to. I’ve been the woman in the Subway parking lot before and I’ll be her again. We both came out of our mothers screaming, cold, and vulnerable, and our mothers still loved us. We both deserve love and respect.
Let me just put it out there that this has been hard for me to write. How do you put into words why exactly you should be kind without feeling like a fraud and a hypocrite the entire time, knowing full well that you fail every day trying to be “good” because your heart wasn’t in the right place to begin with?
I’ll let you know when I find out. In the meantime, I’m just going to trust that Love really is the guiding principle. It’s worked for, oh, a couple of people.