Monday, February 7, 2011

Casting Stones

Day 27: a picture of yourself and a family member.

This is a picture of me and my cousin from a very long time ago. (I used my mad photoshop skills to remove my parents from the picture--I know you're surprised because you totally can't tell, right?)
Update on my cousin: He lives with the mother of his children. They had another baby.
When I was in grade one, I went to school with this girl who was "poor." Honestly, the fact that she grew up in the same neighbourhood as me probably meant that she wasn't poor, but at the age of six, that was the only reason I could think of that she looked like she did. She was unwashed, wore threadbare clothes, and was in the green group for reading (obviously that meant she was dumb too).
I had a daydream that I helped this girl. I made her have a bath then I brushed her hair and gave her some of my clothes to wear. I magically made her able to read and fed her a good meal. And she lived happily ever after. (What? I was six.)
Anyway, that's what I want to do with my cousin...and his kids. I want to move him here, make him stop drinking, send him to school, and watch his life change before my eyes. I want to bathe and dress his children, send them to a nice school in this neighbourhood, and watch them become successful and happy. I want them all to live happily ever after.
But perhaps their happily ever after and my happily ever after are not the same thing. Maybe they like living on a farm and running around barefoot in the summer. Maybe they have friends where they are that love them for who they are and don't want to change them. Maybe they don't see their lives as unhappy and unsuccessful.
I don't know what happened to that girl that I went to school with in grade one. All I know is that I'm a total asshole. Who am I to judge someone else's life? I'm not in possession of all the details; I don't know anyone else's thoughts and feelings. If people are happy to be exactly who they are, what right do I have to wish something different for them just because it conforms to my idea of what is right and good?
Now if you will excuse me; I have to go pick up all the stones I've cast over the years. Happy, successful people keep tripping over them.

1 comment:

  1. OK Lily, this is what i think. i think you are coming down too hard on yourself.
    I remember my early school days the same way. I too thought a bath and a good meal could have made all the difference in the world for someone. And the green group, yeah, that would have sucked.
    Having been in the blue group myself, I knew my literacy skills were better than that of the red and the green groups.
    The caterpillar segments cut out of wallpaper on the west wall of the classroom indicating just how many books my parents had suffered through reading with me also were indicative of this early academic success.
    Why were we allowed to know this?
    Why were we taught to compare and judge ourselves and others at a really young age?
    At just five, we clearly knew where we fit within our own social realm.
    For those of us that excelled, it wasn't a big deal, in fact, it was kind of nice. But for the green group kids, i wonder if that cast them toward a future of academic failure, poor self esteem, etc.
    That goes for the rest of it too. We were clean, well dressed, loved, nurtured and over-protected. We lived in a good neighborhood, in an affluent community.
    That's just how life was in our bubble.
    It became our model for what was socially acceptable, how life was supposed to be because there was only one anomaly.
    It stands to reason that you clearly remember that situation and it says a ton about your character that you wanted to reach out and "fix" it.
    We were never taught the concepts of poverty- there was no reason for us to know.
    Now, as adults, we look back and think that somehow we've done something wrong by remembering these situations? That somehow we have failed as human beings? That our skewed early impressions of how things were supposed to be in the world is our fault even though we were over-protected and over-indulged children?
    I don't buy it.
    In any situation, you take the information you have, conditioned by your own circumstances and experiences and you do your best when you are called upon to act. Sometimes you can help, sometimes you can't.
    Identifying the things that you could do to make someone's life better isn't casting stones, it's called compassion.
    So we got a late start understanding real-life issues. It doesn't matter- what does matter is that you care enough to want to make someone's life a little better, even if it is your version of better.
    Not everyone gets a soft start to life. Not everyone views "the way things are supposed to be" the same, that's what's great about life. Some happily and blissfully chase chickens in their bare feet, some chase after other things.
    May i suggest that you gather up the stones you think you've cast and stack them one upon another and view them with pride. You could call it Lily's Pillar of Compassion.
    The next time you feel you are being an asshole by making judgement on something , add the stone to your pillar and smile knowing that you're only holding the stone because it's incongruent with your views and because you care.
    Btw, i happen to know of a "red group" individual who is now an extremely successful doctor :)