Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Be Kind, Unwind

Sometimes I feel like the most magnificent failure ever as a parent. My daughter recently went to McDonald’s (EWWW!) to obtain some bit of chemical swill they pass for food (she refuses to eat healthy no matter what example I set or how much I hound her about the crap she puts in her body and the effect it will have eventually – youth is wasted on the young - can I have my AARP card now?) and when she returned, she told me a Mexican guy came up to her car and persistently begged for money while she was in the drive-thru. Her story was not narrated in a compassionate “I wish I could’ve helped him” tone, this was told in a completely indignant, angry “Why the hell are there so many illegals here and WTF business do they have accosting ME?!” Princess tone. :sigh: Who raised this kid?

I have to admit, I’m not wild about the thought of so many foreigners coming into our country and not playing by the same rules everyone else has to, but still having some benefit from our system. I also don’t agree with how they pop out babies one after the other when they can’t even feed the first one they had (although that happens plenty right here at home too). It’s certainly a drain on our nation.

However, when I expand my awareness beyond the details, these are still PEOPLE – they’re HUMAN. They get hungry and scared and need shelter and love just like the rest of us. Most are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. And how awful must it be where they come from that they’re willing to risk that kind of journey, and stoop to begging for food, because it’s better than where they were. Think about that. A lifestyle we avoid at all costs, the one viewed as bottom of the barrel – THAT is a step up from where these people lived.

Is that lazy? Is that contemptible? Is that not a shining example of hope, and the ultimate faith that the Universe will provide for you? Isn't it possible we could learn something from that?

Sure, I know the stereotype, and it becomes a stereotype for a reason. But it’s not everyone. And you have to give some benefit of the doubt at some point. Again, these are still HUMANS. There are always going to be those who fit the worst description our imaginations conjure, and then there are those that are truly trying to make a difference in their lives. How do you know which is which in the ten second interaction that takes place when someone asks you for a handout? You don’t. So give the benefit of the doubt. And even if you can’t offer anything more than a prayer for that person to have a better day tomorrow, BE KIND. That's all I wanted my daughter to be.

So I heard Katy’s story, and in the moment I felt like I failed to pass on any compassion at all to her. I argued with her that these are still people, and on paper we’re not that far removed from the dude at her window when I’m down to $10 cash and don’t get paid for a week. She didn’t seem to care, and stubbornly stuck to her disgust. Ego – Open All Night! AAGGGHHH. Somehow I don’t feel I can write that off as naiveté as easily as the eating habits, and I’m not sure how to correct it now. I feel like I failed to impress upon her that yes, there may be cases where righteous indignation is appropriate (witness 8 years of Emperor Rove... I mean Bush... I mean Cheney), but that still doesn’t make it okay to treat someone less fortunate like dirt. Perhaps if more people felt this way, there would be less crime and poverty and bullshit going on in the world.

You know, in the past few days I’ve been worried I don’t have enough compassion. I’m often opinionated and come across cold or elitist about certain subjects. I’ve told my share of racial jokes (but I like to think I pick on everyone equally, like Carlos Mencia who touts himself as an "Equal Opportunity Offender"), and surely I feel like everyone should be pulling their own weight and/or cleaning up their own messes no matter what walk of life they come from. But under those cold, opinionated, ego-filled comments and diatribes, there is still Love. And sometimes people need a little help. None of us can exist completely alone because we are all intertwined - part of a Whole.

The good thing that came from her tale is my own gratitude. I look around my house and see there is food in the pantry, and electricity in my walls, and a clean bathroom, and an awesome bed to sleep in tonight, a computer connected to the internet, and so many things I don’t even look at every day because I don’t need them, and I’m like geez, even when I’m down to pennies in my bank account with creditors breathing down my neck, I’m a WORLD away from that guy. That guy would give anything to have my problems. And maybe I’m not the one to change his fortune, but I’m thankful he exists, and I'm even thankful he chose my daughter to bother (since it was harmless!), because it makes me grateful to be where I am. I just hope someday Katy sees the Light too.