Our tiny town lost a child yesterday. A first grader succumbed to cancer. Whatever your faith, whatever your nonfaith, whatever your journey or life experience, this is a tragedy. A life lost before it got started. A potential never reached. Silence, not laughter. Emptiness never to be filled with love and joy and the growing pains of raising an innocent child to adulthood.
Sadly, a dear friend relayed the loss of a child in her hometown two days ago. An eighth grader took his own life. Rumor had it he was bullied. Another loss. Another silence in the hearts of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, basketball coaches, peers, future employers, a future spouse and future children. Another gaping hole where once a child lived.
Each and every life is precious. Each and every one.
Yet, if I started layering these stories with other information, opinions might begin to change. Humans are judgemental. We let our values and prejudices interfere with our basic human compassion. We put ourselves–and those like us–on pedestals and deem others somehow inferior, somehow less deserving.
I hear it all the time. As a court advocate for kids, as a mother, a member of social groups, a Christian, a wife, a coworker. Every role I play puts me in a position to hear–and pass–judgment on others.
Too often, I hear compassion slip away as information is revealed.
“Her dad is black.” Or Hispanic. As if this is somehow the reason behind the grades a child gets in school or how well she sits in class. For the record, plenty of “white” kids get poor grades and fidget through first grade. They also bring weapons to school and drink and get detention for smart-mouthing teachers. Yet, I’ve never heard, “Her dad is white.”
“He’s gay.” As if this somehow negates the very idea that he could love a child without having perverse thoughts toward it. Hello, folks. Lots of molested children are victims of heterosexuals. Lots. More than you care to consider. Some of them by biological fathers or grandfathers or uncles or brothers or mothers. Yes, that happens, too. And far more often than you’d care to consider. Our children’s sexual safety isn’t in danger from homosexuals, but rather from a pool of psychologically aberrant individuals taken from every race, religion, gender and profession.
“Ugh. She lives in a trailer.” As if this automatically relegates a child to a life of unwashed clothes, headlice and burger flipping. I grew up in a trailer, as did my business-owning, neat-as-a-pin, liceless brother-in-law. I’ve been in tidy trailers and trashed mansions.
“But they’re Muslim.” Or Catholic, or Buddhist, or Methodist, or Lutheran, or Atheist, or Wiccan. As if these people are incapable of doing anything productive, compassionate or selfless simply because of what they believe or don’t believe in regards to faith. Plenty of Christians I know are hypocritical, selfish and judgemental. Just like plenty of people in every other religion or nonreligion known to man.
We are human. We persecute those different from us. We are brash and cruel, thoughtless and dehumanizing. We forget the very basic, underriding compassion for others even as we tell the world how wonderful we are.
We suppress and oppress. We judge people on factors that may or may not have any impact on events, behaviors or failures. We generalize and stereotype. We inhibit and prohibit.
We forget to strip away the irrelevant information and remember that underneath, we were all innocent children. Are innocent. That we are all precious and deserving of respect and compassion regardless of where we came from, whom we love or what our faith.
Take a moment to evaluate your own prejudices and judgements. Ask yourself where they came from and why you feel the way you do. Consider if your feelings have been passed down through the generations and have relevance in your life in the here and now. Is it a stereotype you’ve learned from television, the newspaper, your preacher? Is it a generalization you’ve made based on personal experiences? Is holding onto it conducive to living your life? Do you take into account other’s personal experiences before foisting your values onto them? Do you have room to improve?
You don’t need to answer those questions here, but I ask that you think about them as you go about your day. Don’t let the loss of our innocent children slip away forgotten, because underneath the labels we paste on ourselves and others, we are all inherently the same.
*Thoughtful and respectful commentary is welcome, regardless of the content. However, any blatantly disrespectful comments will not be approved. This blog does not support attacking individuals or groups of individuals for any reason.
So true. You never hear….but her dad/mom is white. I can’t even imagine hearing that; it would sound so funny. I think I’ll try it sometime.
More and more young people are dying of cancer. It shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t have to and nobody can convince me that it isn’t due to the chemicals in our food and all the other ones we are exposed to as well as the polution in our water and air.
A very good post.
There is a sad truth in our advanced technology and that is the impact it has on our children. The upcoming generation is the only one to go backwards in life expectancy. It hurts my heart just to think about some of the things we have done to the natural world and how that unexpectedly affects our fellow humans.
Let me know how the “white” comment works. The reaction from others hearing it would be priceless.
Thank you for this post. I think, statistically, more children are molested by heterosexual males (and I think it’s “more male children are molested by heterosexual males”, to add to the confusion”). That kind of judgement, though, especially as pertains to children, drives me straight up a wall.
I’m very, very lucky that my “starting” elementary school was very diverse: white, black, Hispanic, Christian, Jewish. I don’t think anybody was Muslim and I’m still, sadly, very much uninformed about that religion in general.
And, frankly (this is my controversial contribution): there are people who happen to live in a trailer, and then there is the third generation of “people who live in a trailer”, who look forward to qualifying for food stamps and getting his girlfriend pregnant, rather than looking for a job, furthering education, etc. (I have a specific example in mind of people I see at the library). Trailer isn’t a dealbreaker. It’s what you do with your life.
Thanks for your input. I love your last pair of sentences for how honest and clear they are. The same could be said about any of the crutches and/or prejudices we throw out there.
Like you, I grew up with a diverse childhood. Often, I was the minority. I love that I had those experiences to broaden my world view. Especially since my parents finally settled down in the conservative midwest where the opportunity to encounter such diversity was almost non-existent. I try very hard to pass along this openness to my own kids, as I believe it is a gift.
Yesterday I had two diverse experiences with this topic. First, I attended the House Education Finance Committee session to hear the testimony about a proposed bill. This bill had to do with Charter school finance. I inadvertantly sat on the “wrong side” of the gallery and sat with the “anti-” crowd. The whispers and commentary on that side was amazingly fascinating – and nearly all of it mis-informed about charter schools (on a range of topic). The vitriol was impressive….all charters are bad, parents that make that choice are stupid, you make your choice live with, etc. That’s what I can publish.
Then in the evening, my little charter school hosted a high school open house night. We are fortunate to live in an area with a wide array of high school choices, both public and private. We had 4 private schools and 3 public districts speak to about 50 parents and students about their schools. All of these leaders were complimentary about the other schools, all expressed a variation of “parents, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices – find what fits your kid”. Yet I know the competition for students is extreme. But these principles and school leaders were collegial and open minded with their competition. What a fine example of open-minded tolerance. It gives me a glimmer of hope!
What great examples when put together. Now if only we could bottle up the open-minded tolerance, morph it into compassionate acceptance and pass it out to the world, we would truly get somewhere.
But you’re right, at the moment, hope is a step toward success. And for some, hope is all they have.
Thanks for sharing!
We are failing our children and ourselves miserably in this country and around the world. The world cares more about the safety of their email and ipad than they do about the children who are abused, beaten and starved for food, love, and affection.
We have money and resources to go track down stolen goods on ebay…but not enough to stop child predators online and in our neighborhoods, etc. We have to fight to keep laws like Adam’s Law in effect because there are people who want to take it away. It’s unthinkable and beyond tragic.
Thank you for your words and the courage to speak from the heart, Cat!
So very true. At times we are not prudent when it comes to prioritizing. Sadly, it is the children who typically suffer from the choices we make. It is also the children who learn from our behavior and more often than not imitate it, thereby perpetuating the cycle.
Only by standing strong against a tide of prejudice can we make an impact–if only by one or two at the start. Regardless, it’s still a start.
Thank you for sharing your perspective. It’s not always an easy thing to do.
A very thought-provoking post, Cate. It’s so true that our society is too keen on passing judgments without knowing the whole story first. It’s always fun for me when I meet people for the first time, and after talking to them, they tell me (with a slightly stunned expression on their faces): “You speak really good English.”
Yeah. Um, of course I do. I’m American, hello? I may not be ethnically “white”, but yes, I do speak your language.
What’s really sad is that the kids suffer for their parents’ bigotry. Have you noticed how kids are more rude today, or how they seem to be a lot more disrespectful of others compared to earlier generations? And then you see their parents and how they act, and it all makes sense. Society’s ethics and morals are rapidly disintegrating. Hence, the bullying problems, and the judgments, the pointing fingers, the sense of entitlement as if no one else exists in the world or that they’re there to do their bidding.