Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Are Responsible To Each Other

"Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart."
                                                                                 ~ Anne Frank

I was lucky enough to be cast in plays and musicals when I was in high school… I loved performing, escaping, letting someone else’s reality become my own for a few hours. I got to stand on stage and act in ways I never would in real life.

Becoming Anne Frank was my favorite.

I got to be snotty to my sister. I stuck out my tongue at adults who annoyed me, yelled at my mother and declared an independence I would have never had the nerve to assert in real life.

Considering I’m on the phone with my parents multiple times a week just to check in and stay connected, it’s an independence I may have forgotten to declare altogether. :)

At the end of the play, when Anne’s father was sitting alone at a table reading her diary, my character was off stage and I spoke these words into the microphone: “Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart.”

I believe that, too.

Since starting this blog and getting to know all of you who come here and maintain this amazing relationship with me, I believe it even more. I recently had a conversation with someone who was trying to figure out a direction to go with their blog, and I think it’s amazing that a blog can be so many different things to different people… it can be a creative outlet, a source of income, a jumping off point for a business or a book. For me, it’s simply a lifeline to all of you. To people who show up, people who are good at heart… people I am emotionally invested in after the very first comment.

And the more blessed I am by good hearted people, the more my heart hurts when I see people who have lost that “thing” that connects them to the good. I dealt with a situation recently with a woman in my building who has been harassing me about a small modification I had to make in the hallway outside my door. Since I can’t walk down the hall to get my mail, a neighbor drops my mail off in a basket on a small stand outside my door. It’s also where any pharmacy or other deliveries are left.

And this woman wanted the basket gone. She knew about my limitations, and I honestly think that made her more adamant that I shouldn’t get special treatment or something, as typically things can’t be left in the hall. She confronted me. She confronted my delivery person. I then found out she had confronted my neighbors who drop off my mail and went so far as to say that if I needed this modification I would be better off living in a nursing home.

That last part pissed me off. Not gonna lie.

So, I took care of it. I wrote her a letter asking her to stop the harassment and informed her of my rights to have the modification. I contacted the condo association and they were wonderful… supporting me and issuing their own demand that she remain silent on the issue. So, before you all get your ire up for me on my behalf, it’s been handled. :) My point of this is that this woman is disconnected from the big picture. She focused on the basket instead of the person. She felt powerful trying to bully and harass, rather than finding the power of spirit that comes from extending kindness instead of anger.

I got on Twitter tonight and discovered that a friend of mine’s son was bullied at school today. He has a speech impediment, and someone felt powerful because they could harass someone who was deemed different or weaker. It’s been gnawing at me that this little boy was confronted by another child who hadn’t yet learned the lesson that being cruel doesn’t give you power… it just makes you a weak soul. And it occurred to me that this grown woman who was harassing me hadn’t learned that lesson yet, either.

Which makes me wonder, who forgot to teach them?

Because I do believe we all come to this earth being good at heart. Life happens and circumstances can change us… but we have teachers along the way who take us aside and show us compassion and help direct us on better paths. And I’m wondering how many people I’ve had contact with in my life who were looking to me to teach them, and I didn’t take the opportunity to help guide them.

A few years ago, I heard about a girl who had been bullied and ridiculed at her high school, to the point of wanting to change schools. It was incessant, and she ended up trying to take her own life. The school called an assembly and told all the students that they were not to blame… that this was one girl’s decision about how to handle a problem… and they were not responsible for her actions.

I understand why they said it. But I can’t help but wonder why a bigger lesson wasn’t taught. I can’t help but wonder when we are supposed to stand up and teach our children, teach our peers, teach our elders, teach ourselves that we are responsible to each other. We aren’t responsible for someone’s actions, but we are responsible to them as a person… we have a responsibility to speak in kindness and act with compassion. We can control how we treat people. How we care about people. How we love people.

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' [Mt 25: 45]

I know we can’t change the world and stop all the bullying or harassment. I know we can’t change every heart to know empathy. I know I can’t make the right and perfect decisions myself everyday. I guess it just got me thinking that sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we can do something.

We can live by example… the example you all have shown me daily with your love and kind words. We can speak up when we see an injustice, and not only defend the weak who are harassed, but speak to the weak in spirit who are doing the harassing. We can teach our children that looking out for number one isn’t the way to walk through this life… we can teach them that we are responsible to each other. That our actions make a difference. That our words have consequences to others.

We can teach them that power comes from kindness, strength of spirit comes from compassion, and strength of character is an invaluable gift.

I just don’t want anyone to pass through my life, only to have someone later ask, “Who forgot to teach them?”

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