I grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood, and probably not all that surprising, my family is quite diverse as well. We are multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-generational, multi-political, feminists, gay and lesbian… you name it, we’ve multi’d it! We share a common public service theme, i.e., teachers, healthcare workers, therapists, social workers, cops, and firefighters. We love our music — all types, and I can’t think of one of us that won’t cut a rug when a tune plays whether anyone else thinks we look good doing it or not. Essentially, we have a smattering of just about every socioeconomic group you might think of… just about. I think that makes us special, and I know it is a blessing.
Today, however, I’m not wanting to talk about how special we are or why. To be straightforward, we buried my mother-in-law yesterday, and I’m feeling drawn inward by the whole experience. Today I want to express why being special in this way and having this blessing is really two other things: an opportunity and an obligation. Depending on the day, I may feel stronger about one or the other, but my mind will never change about the importance of either. People don’t often like the word “obligation,” and I’ll bet a lot of people tuned out when they read that one. It’s not a bad word — just something to live into, not always up to. This is the case with a family like mine. This is where people are missing the boat, so to speak. My family is special, but we are not unique, and we are becoming less and less unique as time flies by. That’s why this feels so important to me. My own family’s demographics are much like the rest of our country’s, just on a smaller, easier to view scale — a microcosm.
The opportunity in a family like ours is a rich one, not unlike our total human family. But the opportunity doesn’t exist at all if we refuse to listen to each other. This is true of the human existence overall — no different than my own special family. If we refuse (I won’t use the word “can’t” here, because it really is a refusal.) to validate each other’s individual life experiences we are truly doomed. Our family is doomed. This country is doomed, and you can follow the trail from there. Because we don’t look the same; because we don’t worship the same; because we have lived in different parts of the country; all these things have given us different experiences — ones that we don’t all share. For some reason those of us who don’t share them feel that those experiences somehow don’t exist or lack validity. We pick and choose simple arguments to prove our points, rather than just simply listening to our loved one’s experiences. Isn’t that crazy? I personally find it near insane and completely unloving that we’d rather pick a random article, written by a random unknown person to prove our preconceived notion than to lend our loved ones our ear, much less grant them some validation, or better yet, give them some credence and climb on board.
I posted this the other day after watching some family and some friends do and say some very destructive things, and also out of worry for another whom I think could be selling herself short:
Don’t limit yourself by listening only to those who you know are already in agreement with you, and be mindful of surrounding yourself with limited thinkers. Growth and learning don’t happen in the dark. Open your heart and soul to the light of others.
Then in response:
I used to think it was common sense, but not anymore. I really think it’s a learned skill, and a heart condition that is WILLING to hear another’s experience and validate it, even in the possibility of learning that we might need to admit we need to change our own thinking. Most people just can’t align with this. We’d rather stand in our rightness and righteousness than to admit we might be wrong or not understand something fully. It’s sad.
I realize there is a lot of obligation wrapped up in this post, but I hope that the readers can recognize how much opportunity there is as well, and that they actually go hand-in-hand. There is ALWAYS obligation if you want opportunity. However, often when we associate obligation with family and close friends it may feel like opening the door to be trampled upon, or like extra work. That is not at all what I’m suggesting, nor am I suggesting that you do the trampling. But if you can’t own up to the obligation of who you are in your family, and even bigger, the world, you absolutely will miss out on the opportunity to love and be loved for who you are as well. You absolutely will miss out on blessings that will undoubtedly enrich your life. If you can see the differences only as something to immediately dismiss and/or disagree with, you are ultimately selling yourself short, though you may at first be selling the other short. You will be the one who loses out in the end. At any time and any place in life when you deny someone their right to just “be” in their existence, to allow them the space to have an expression of how life occurs for them, you are also shutting the door on yourself. Imagine that it would be like an opportunity to step through a door that takes you on a trip through a place you’ve never seen, but choosing to just shut the door instead.
It’s real comfortable to go through life only with people that already agree with you. It’s easy to read only things that you already know, or things that sound like what you already say. It’s even easier to spread posts and articles without drilling down and researching what is being put out there simply because we like what it says. How does this enrich your life? Where is the learning? Where is the discovery? Where is the growth in this kind of behavior and thinking? This is actually inaction at its finest, and it’s also sadly the stuff that is not worth hurting people we care about over, yet it happens daily. We are quick to be indifferent to or minimize someone’s experience when it is something we don’t know, and adamant about standing in our own opinion even in the face of losing someone, even in the face of limiting our own experiences. We humans will do all this, risk all this, avoid all this — because we would rather be right than to just listen.
We could change the world, but we refuse to even change our minds. A smattering is more than you think. We can only change the world one mind at a time, but we forget we must start with our own. Give yourself the opportunity of living into something more than what you already know.
|A Smattering of My Beloveds