Can we just give our heads a shake?


Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, keep that computer going, rawhide! Okay, so you may or may not get the reference. Rawhide was an American western television show that aired once a week from 1959 to 1965 and starred Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming. Yes, I know, I am telling my age. I really don’t care about that. As I started writing this post (which has nothing to do with the t.v. show) that theme music played in my mind and so I had to inform you so you know where my brain is at. Sort of.

My brain is doing its best to pick sense out of a news story I read this morning. As self isolation has us all going a bit batty, I thought I’d share a couple of observations. Yes, these are stressful times. For sure. No question, whatsoever. And we are seeing the very best and the very worst of humanity. This post addresses both, but just a little bit – no long soliloquies here.

So, first the bad news. (I promise I will finish with the good stuff.) The story that really bothered me was one about how a cluster of positive coronavirus tests started with people gathering for a funeral. It was early days and governments were scrambling to put protocols and regulations in place to deal with the pandemic. Apparently at this funeral there was an individual who would later test positive for the virus. Let me stress here this individual did not attend the funeral with any sense or knowledge they were sick. Okay then, damage done. Of course, it spread, like it has anywhere there’s been social gatherings including an infected person. I needed to get that out there first and foremost. Where the story went from there is truly disturbing.

The story went on to say that the bereaved were then taunted and bullied online for bringing the virus to the area. And, by the way, it was not any of the bereaved who were infected but a friend or relative that attended. The person who had died did not have the virus but had died of other causes. A person who was in relationship with the deceased received notice from the local grocery store that they would not be allowed to shop there.  And on and on it went listing the many people, including the funeral director, who were ostracized, singled out, and victims of needless emotional and mental abuse. As a friend of mine would say, “Give your heads a shake, people”.

People who are already grieving and emotionally vulnerable should never have to deal with such ugliness. But we are only human. Some react to fear with anger and hatred, others with loving kindness.

The good news is I have read far more stories focusing on the loving kindness, empathy, and compassion humanity is also capable of. Like people jumping in cars to drive by their local hospitals with horns blaring as a salute to the medical staff. Like a twenty-four-year-old American now living in Canada lauding and praising Canadians for their kindness and consideration of one another. Like the quick response of community-minded people organizing help for senior citizens and home bound vulnerable people who cannot get out for groceries and necessities like medication. Like children drawing hopeful messages on sidewalk with chalk. Like Jon Bonn Jovi washing dishes in one of his restaurants he runs for the homeless. Rich and poor alike, people have reached out to help one another through this. We each have a choice as to how we will respond. I am grateful that the good far outnumbers the bad in all of this. Yes, self isolation can drive you batty, if you let it. But it doesn’t have to. We do have a choice how we respond. May our choices be positive and life-affirming. May we come out the other side of this able to face ourselves in the mirror. Be safe. Be healthy. Be blessed and please, be a blessing for others.

WHAT MAKES A BULLY A BULLY?


Pixabay Image

I see a lot of memes on social media decrying bullying – and that’s great, but I cannot help but wonder why children bully in the first place. I mean, I can see that it seems like learned behaviour – monkey see, monkey do. But where did it start – somehow, somewhere it must have become a cycle, right? The mom bullies her daughter who bullies her daughter and on and on it goes. I’ve come to understand that people who are hurt tend to hurt others, whether they consciously mean to or not. So, to my mind, shaming or attempting to make a bully feel guilty for their behaviour may just add to the feelings that cause them to bully in the first place. I have tried to understand the reasons children bully others ever since I was bullied myself as a child.

Let’s face it happy, content people generally do not bully others, or cause unnecessary pain. I think that goes for children too. I think we need to look deeper than the surface to understand the reasoning behind bullying. Treating a child like they’re a monster does not seem to me to be a reasonable or helpful way to handle bullying. In an age where bullying, especially on social media, seems to be growing out of control I think it’s time we gave more thought to the reasons for this behaviour and try to find better ways to cope with it – for the sake of all our children and young people.

Body and Soul: Gender Issues


gender dysphoria

 

I remember “Paul” (that’s what I shall call him), he was a classmate of mine. Paul was a very quiet boy. He was ostracized by the other boys and ignored by the girls. He was bullied on a daily basis. All these years later I still think of him from time to time and hope he found peace and happiness in this world.

I remember the cruelty of my classmates toward Paul whose x and y chromosomes had somehow tangled in ways I do not understand. I certainly did not understand at the time, but I was disturbed at how he was tormented by my classmates. I think I may have been 12 or 13 years old at the time. At any rate, he had begun to develop breasts. That was confusing to me, but imagine how confusing, difficult, and challenging that was for him.

I remember the class trip we were on and how the boys got together to convince the most popular and pretty girl in our class to go ask him if he would go out with her. There was a meanness in their curiosity about him. They wanted to “out” him because they thought he was gay. They couldn’t understand him and they hated him because their ignorance made them intolerant of difference.

That “group think” took over the class and they put their plan into action. I remember one child who was brave enough to question the cruel mentality and the plan to embarrass and/or center him “out” fizzled  mid-action. Thank God for that brave soul.

Paul makes me think of the “other”. Of how we treat those who are different from us. Of how we judge those people as somehow inferior or less than us. How arrogant we can be.

In today’s world we have learned more about gender and about how some people are born into the “wrong” body. It is a mysterious thing and I don’t pretend to know the answers. But, do we have to know the whys and hows to treat others with the same respect we demand and want for ourselves?

I remember when I went home after that class trip and asked my mother about Paul. She couldn’t answer my questions concerning the biological and physiological intricacies of the human body. But I do remember her admonishment to be kind and compassionate.

Today, I know of two young people who are struggling with gender issues. One I know fairly well. I see the pain she is going through and the horrible ways she’s been treated by others. I still don’t understand why this is happening to her. It is heart breaking.

Does the fact that one is born female or male really matter? Shouldn’t what is underneath the skin: the heart, soul, and be-ing matter more? Does the container, the body, really matter in the end? Shouldn’t how we treat ourselves and others be more important? I think it is. I know it is all far from simple, but I hope we will soon see a day when the body is recognized for what it is:  a vessel for the soul – and may we develop better understanding and appreciation for this precious commodity, which is the essence of life; the holder of love and all things good.

Image credit: Pixabay

A thank you to the bully I once knew


Musing photo by Anastacia Hopkins

This one is for the girl who taunted, insulted, and belittled me every chance she got. Thank you. You helped me learn what it feels like to feel sad; to feel less than others; to feel like I didn’t belong. In the process you helped me learn empathy and compassion. You made me stronger. Thank you.

You vented your frustration on me. I was your emotional punching bag. You helped me learn that I didn’t ever want to be that again. I learned that I matter. I learned to stand up for myself, though I didn’t at the time. As a friend of mine puts it: “to be somebody’s doormat you have to lay down first ‘. I will not lie down. I will stand firm. My experiences with you helped me learn this. Thank you.

You helped me see that my sensitivity, while it caused me great pain at the time, turned out to be my greatest strength, for I can see the pain in another’s eyes and reach out to help them. Thank you.

I came to understand how deeply unhappy you really were, and so I learned forgiveness. Thank you.

When I was young I thought I was weak and you were strong. But to be strong means to be kind; to be merciful; to be true to one’s values. That is what I learned.  So, thank you.

To have healthy self esteem means that the opinions of others are just that – their opinions and I do not ever have to allow them to define who I am.  Thank you.

Because you judged me I learned what it feels like to be judged and I vowed to never be that kind of person; The kind of person who defines others by their colour, religion, gender, or place of birth. Thank you.

All of the children in our class were afraid of your wrath and so nobody would play with me. I learned what isolation and loneliness feels like. I learned the importance of reaching out to the downtrodden; the lonely; the stranger and the outcast. In the process I have met wonderful people who became friends. So, thank you.

So you see, while your words hurt, they did not win out. It was never really about you – it was about the lessons I needed to learn. I like the person I’ve become. So, thank you!

Homophobia and teen suicide


Stopping the pain; that seems to be the goal when teens commit suicide. I once heard it described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but far too many teens do not see it that way. Young people face a barrage of challenges from their own raging hormones to peer pressure and for some, the unrelenting reality of teasing and bullying. Read more