Friday, 12 August 2011

I still believe in kindness

Lately, there's been so much violence, harshness and cruelty in the world.  I don't even have to tell you where.  If you look around, I'm sure it's just around every corner.

I'm not going to talk about the recent riots in England, although of course you can count that, too.  Maybe seeing such violence, such greed, such horridness contributed to this sadness that I am feeling right now.  Or maybe it's the fact that two of my best friends have recently lost a loved one (both due to ill health).

I've had my share of life's harshness.  Quite recently, something happened that I couldn't shake off my system.  Perhaps it's because I saw the pain in my husband's eyes when he told me about it.  My husband and I took our son J for a long weekend holiday.  We were at the town centre walking around.  (For those of you who don't know yet, my son travels in his wheelchair.  He has special needs.) As we walked past a few shops, we could see a man, a woman and two children who were also looking around.  As we approached them, the man looked at my husband who was pushing J's wheelchair and glowered at J, then at me.  And just before they walked past, the man said out loud, making sure my husband heard him, "That's what happens when the child is half-caste."

I did not hear this as I was too busy looking around.  Husband told me, in a dejected voice, what was said when we got back to the hotel.  "How can people be so judgmental?"  I didn't know what to say to him.  I tried to comfort him by saying in a nonchalant tone, "You've heard worse than that!  Take no notice of them."  Of course I wasn't very convincing. That night, while my two boys snored themselves to dreamland, I was awake.  Thinking.  Asking.

For a moment, I stopped.  There had been worse than that!  My experiences are not as bad as the ones who have lost their homes or livelihood or even life of a loved one and although it is a small piece of this atrocity that seems to be spreading like a disease,  I shouldn't be focusing on these things.  I have two imaginary boxes in my head:  one is labelled "Forgettable Nonsense"  and another one is "Happy Moments."  Immediately, I mentally put this recent experience into the "Forgettable Nonsense" box.

I rummaged in my "Happy Moments" box.  I needed to find memories of "kindness."

I know it is there.  More than this wicked behaviour.

Like those strangers who help me when I struggle to open the doors while I push J's wheelchair in shops, supermarket and cafes.

The lady who held J's hand and spoke to him a few days ago, even if she knew my son couldn't speak.

Last week, there was a young woman who picked J's cap when he dropped it without me noticing it.

Those emails I receive from friends asking how J is doing? How am I feeling?  Have I gotten some sleep?  Messages that let me know people care.

Ahhhh, my "Happy Moments" box is full.

I do not expect people to like my son.  I understand that sometimes he may look odd to some people.  I am aware that his unusual movements can make some people feel uncomfortable.  This is why when people show me kindness, it means so much to me.

I'd like some respect.  Not pity.

Suspended judgement.

Plain acceptance of something that IS.

When I get a little bit of any of this, coupled with a lot of kindness, I begin to forget the vicious.

I see the goodness of life again.

"Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see" 
 - Mark Twain


Karen Lange said...

It is sad how tactless and selfish some people can be. A little kindness goes a long way, doesn't it?
I'm so glad you have a way to filter and process these unhappy things. It's very good advice!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Kari Marie said...

I can never understand how people can say such mean things to people. If I accidentally offend someone I feel horrible for days, much less say something to deliberatly disparage them - to their face. I think you have the right idea on this one. Pull out that Happy Moments file, forget the rest.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

People who are vicious have to go home and live with the viciousness. You and your beautiful family have each other and your Happy Moments. I would take your side of the bargain anytime!
Happy Weekend!

Lydia K said...

Ignorance is often at the heart of cruelty.

You are a good, kind, generous, and beautiful person, Len. Your family is lucky to have you, and you them.

Don't let the idiots get you down.

Big hugs.

Crystal Collier said...

When we moved to NYC I was pregnant with #3, and the other two were pretty young. I expected the cold New York experience, but that's not what I found. People raced to help us up or down the stairs in the subway with our stroller, or commented on how beautiful my sons blue blue eyes were. Believe me, we saw our fair share of mean, callous, and thoughtlessness, but I was impressed that even in the hardest of cities there is still kindness. It comes in the most unexpected times.

Ycel Zaleta said...

it's great, len, that you have a forgettable nonsense box and most importantly, a happy moments box. to give your heart some warmth when people are being cold...:)

stay strong, i know you are.

betchai said...

a kind-hearted person will always have that faith in kindness because they know they are and that's what lifts the hearts. I admire you Len for handling such unhappy memory, I love your forgettable nonsense and happy moments box. I know, there will be more to come in your happy moments, with the two boys of your life, J and J. sending you my hugs, len. Miss you, since I cannot see you in FB, this is where I visit you.

Anonymous said...

Oh Len, it hurts my heart to hear you have to face such cruelty. You are a better person than me though, to handle it the way you did, and then to be able to put it away. Something in me changed after cancer treatments and now I say what's on my mind and I know I would have gotten in their faces and then would have felt awful later for my behavior. You are the kind of person who brings out the kindness in me.

Glynis said...

You know my feelings on this, Len. I do feel for your pain. I also admire your strength and courage.

May your happy memory box be filled to overflowing. X

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Len - said with total feeling .. and something you must both 'battle' to ignore --- things said, or actions done by people who are completely ignorant ...

It is their problem and sadly society's problem too .. but we must rise above such callousness ..

.. somehow we should all experience each aspect of life growing up - if we can and have it endorsed all along our youth and early adulthood .. so most of us will comprehend the challenges and special needs a life may require ..

Thanks for letting us know about this .. society needs much education and empathy .. with many thoughts .. Hilary

Jim Murdoch said...

One of the things I commented about to my wife when I first visited America – my wife is from California – was the number of black people. I’m Scottish and I think I would have been about ten before I saw my first black person in the flesh and he was an African, black as tar and in national dress – even Indians and Pakistanis were uncommon then too – and I was in my mid-teens before I actually had an opportunity to talk to a coloured person. My wife was surprised that I would think to comment on such a thing having grown up there but to me it was comment worthy.

Colour was never an issue here growing up. Our time is fully taken up hating the English whatever their colour in fact when I was an IT trainer a while back one of my students, an Indian lady who always wore a sari to class, told me a funny story about her first day in Glasgow. Her relatives with whom she was staying ran, as so many Asians do, a corner shop (which we think nothing of calling Pakis irrespective of the specific nationality). Anyway she went out front to help and a young boy came in and was looking for ginger. (‘Ginger’ in Scotland is a euphemism for all kinds of soft drinks.) The woman picked up a packed of ginger and offered it to him at which point he insulted her and left the shop. What struck her was that he said nothing about her colour, it was her English accent that offended him.

I called someone a half-caste a couple of weeks ago – I was describing a mulatto on TV – and my wife ticked me off (she didn’t much care for ‘mulatto’ either) and so I tried to defend myself asking what were the accepted terms – what do you call a quadroon or an octoroon? – and she didn’t really have an answer other that ‘black’ which, although it might be politically correct, is also inaccurate. Sometime my wife says I’m very innocent. I suppose in such matters I am. I meant no offence by any of the terms. I just didn’t grow up in a society where colour was a big thing.

What is shocking though about your story is the fact that that couple would assume that your kid’s disability was connected in any way to his race. It reminds me of how people used to think about the mentally it, that they couldn’t feel pain like the rest of us. I really thought that kind of thinking was something we were done with.

Old Kitty said...

May that bad person have boils and painful warts where the sun don't shine! :-)

I think what's also grating is that this so called man has two kids and could you imagine what these kids are being brainwashed to be? Dear oh dear! Let's hope they grow up to despise all that this man is!

Oh Len, I'm truly sorry. Ignorant people use words to hurt and cause pain, cos they're ignorant and stupid. Don't let these ignoramouses distort the power of words!

I wouldn't even store what this silly man said anywhere in my brain - I'd dump it deep in the bowels of the deepest murkiest pit like radioactive waste!

Have a wonderful weekend, Len!! Hugs to you and your gorgeous family! Just think of all the fabulous things your son will achieve and conquer and just think of that book you are writing that will soon be published!! And may your hubby spot a lovely rare bird while out bird twitching! Yay! Take care

Jessica Bell said...

Len, this is such a heartfelt post. I'm so glad you are able to separate the bad from the good and keep those mental boxes. I think it's a really extraordinary way to go about coping with the cruelty in this world. You are an inspiration. And YOU, my dear, are one of kindest people I've ever met. Love you lots. xoxo

Deborah Walker said...

I'm so sorry that your family has to hear such nonsense, Len. What a world. But I'm so happy that it hasn't made you bitter. There is good as well as bad.

Kazzy said...

Some people are such idiots. I am sorry you had to be subjected to that. Best wishes.

J.L. Campbell said...

Len, I definitely like your approach. I wish I'd remember to bring out the happy memories when awful things happen, instead of giving in to negative emotions.

That said, the sad part about that incident is that that man is raising children and passing on his poison. I can only hope his spouse is sensible enough to try and counter his beliefs/comments. The world can certainly do without the mean and bitter.

Hope you and your family have a great weekend.

Theresa Milstein said...

That quote just gave me chills. Mark Twain was around so long ago and really got the world. Oscar Wilde too. Somehow, mankind hasn't caught up to them.

Len, I really don't know what to say. People make snap judgements. We see the world through our own lenses. Some people have some pretty narrow lenses.

You have more support than you know. I'm sure more people look at you and your son, silently admiring you for your strength. There will always be people who will look at you, your husband, and your son, and make all sorts of assumptions. You know who you and your family are. You're not narrow. That's what's important.

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm leaving a 2nd comment to share a story.

I had my daughter just before my son turned 4. He was a reasonable 4-year-old - not impulsive. When she was just a couple of weeks old, I parked across the street from the library. I couldn't figure out how to prop my daughter's car seat and hold my son's hand.

I told him, "We're crossing the street. I need you to hold my shirt and stay right next to me."

Cambridge has a law that you're fined $100 for not stopping and there was a crosswalk. I felt confident.
Halfway across, a car went by instead of stopping. A woman yelled, "Hold your child's hand!"

My son was started by the scream and fell. He immediately stood up and held onto my shirt again. He hobbled across the rest of the street crying.

I felt like the worst mother in the world. But I also knew if that woman hadn't interfered, we would've been fine. And we were fine when we left the library and did the same thing.

Nothing more likely to get you unsolicited advice and open judgement from strangers than becoming a parent, being in an unconventional family.

I hope you have many more happy moments.

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't think I made it clear that the woman who yelled was in the car. Instead of stopping by law, it was more important for her to keep going and scare my son.

The Golden Eagle said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through that. People can be so harsh without a second thought, without thinking about what their words could mean to someone else.

Sending hugs your way!

Anonymous said...

We need more people to practice kindness.

Nice post!

Rachel Morgan said...

You have such a positive attitude about this, well done! It must be really difficult to hear commments like the one this man made, but how fantastic that you can push it aside into the Forgettable nonsense box and dwell only on your Happy moments box. Hugs xx

Anonymous said...

Len: I haven't been over here for a long time. It's hard to keep up with everyone, isn't it? So I'm glad you connected with me through Facebook. I just left you a message there and then came over here. I'm so glad I did. I'm trying to write a friend's book about *her* VERY disabled son. She's had experiences like this--people making rude or nasty comments. This hasn't happened to me with my daughter because once she starts talking, people are aware of how cognizant she is and there's no problem. In situations like yours, you just have to shrug and tell yourself that they're the ones who are "crippled." In other words, focus on kindness, not the viciousness in the world. Difficult to do sometimes. Such mean comments do hurt.

A "happy moments" box. That is such a lovely thing. Thanks to you, I am now also thinking about one. So I'm grateful you shared this experience with your "special" son which I'm reading this Sunday morning when we would usually be in church but aren't because my daughter isn't feeling well. You've made my day!!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

L'Aussie said...

I am absolutely speechless at that comment to your husband. The violence and mayhem in the world is an indication of the individual. As the saying goes, world peace begins at home. When something like this happens it can take a long time to throw it off so I hope you and your family have managed to find peace again.

The world has so many kind people but usually their acts aren't publicised. Let's be kind every day. Kind to ourselves too!

Hope you have a great week!


Margo Berendsen said...

I still believe in kindness too, and I want you to know that this post just got filed at the top of my happy moments box, thank you so much for sharing!!! I would love to meet you so I could give your son a hug but the next time I see someone with special needs I will remember him and do something nice. There seems to be an increase in hatefulness and lack of respect, but I also see kindness increasing to counteract it.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

It is hard when people make such hurtful comments but they are the ones that are making a big mistake by voicing such comments, as all they are doing is highlighting their ignorance. Thank goodness you are able to see the bigger picture Len. Take Care.

Michael Di Gesu said...


It boggles my mind how cruel people can be. A few days ago and saw a dad with his handicapped son sitting in the park. My heart went out to them. I have so much respect for the parents of these special children.

When I arrived home I mentioned to my partner about this special man and spouted out about how God could allow this to happen. Well he said something that calmed me immediately.

God places special kids with parents who have enough love to overcome the handicap. Remember this when some snide remark hits you in the face.

Place this thought in your happy moments box. Because you and your husband are special and deserve so much respect.

Angela Felsted said...

I'd like some respect. Not pity.

Suspended judgement.

Plain acceptance of something that IS.

This is the kind of mantra I could tape up on my wall and look at everyday. How dreadful that anyone would say that.

Anonymous said...

Love the Mark Twain quote! He's one of my favorite people of all time. I know a lot of people who would benefit from his words of wisdom.

Anonymous said...

That man is a moron. I can't believe how cruel some people can be. People who act like this want everyone to be as miserable as they are. I'm sorry you have to go through this. Yes, look at your happy moments, because not everything is dreary.

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Ann said...

What a nasty person! I am so glad you were able to throw this wicked incident into the forgettable nonsense compartment. Though I would not have been as generous as you and labelled this behaviour "Nonsense." But then I am not good of heart and generous or good like you are Len!