There was an envelope in my mailbox. Addressed to my wife I turned it over and saw “Thank you for accepting people as they are.” Maybe some of you have received this envelope after having contributed to the Special Olympics. I didn’t directly contribute but my wife has always made sure we contributed and during our teaching years were actively involved…as in she involved me during her days as an elementary physical education instructor and while cosponsoring the high school’s service-learning program. I am thankful for that.
She has always been the poster child for accepting people at face value. Accepting people at what they were. Offering love and discipline but no criticisms as to what they were or where they came from.
I remember visiting her while she taught on occasion. Smiling, snotty-nosed children of different genders and races rushed gleefully into her class, expecting to receive and returning hugs, refusing to be denied. Sneezes, mucus, mud be damned. Terms of endearment flowed from Miss PE, “Sugar or Honey Lamb, Snookems, Babydoll,” etc. I saw love and acceptance.
Don’t be fooled. She could get after them pretty good when they failed to get to or remain on their spots, but she distanced the person from the offense. She accepted people as they were. I wondered as I looked at the envelope…and fell down Alice’s rabbit hole.
When I saw the phrase on the back of the envelope, I asked myself, “What if we accepted people as they are?” Gay, different races, transgender, poor, different religions, forget where they came from and accept who they are as opposed to what they are.
We are quick to criticize people who look differently, speak differently, have different religious beliefs than us. People who don’t love the way we love or eat the same foods that we eat. We seem to get upset because we must press one for English. How many seconds of our life does it really cost us?
We create divides by pontificating loudly and listening little, passing judgment on one before delivering our sentences to all. Our loud language and sharply delivered words can only be interpreted one way by those they are directed toward.
We are quick to label people with all sorts of names, explain that they are bad or different because they are a product of a lax home environment and because we have thrown god from the halls of education. We don’t like their pink hair, their tattoo or their nose piercing and we look no deeper. We don’t make the effort to listen to what they might want to tell us…what we might actually learn.
We make no effort to understand their thinking or consider what they might have woke up to or went to bed to. We don’t seem to care they might have gone to bed hungry and went out into the world the next morning the same way. Again, we pontificate loudly that it is not our responsibility.
We dismiss many kids as kooks, fruitcakes, freaks, goofballs, wingnuts, mentally ill and the one that knifes me the most…retards. Honestly, I don’t like the label “special”, but we must have a label of some type. After all, we are the normal ones with our normal convictions and conventions. We must have a way to delineate the differences between us and them to make ourselves feel more important, more worthy.
I hurt for our teens. Teens at best are troubled and all we’ve done is add to their troubles. Dealing with those raging hormones is bad enough…and now we call them crazy because…well because. We tell them they’ll never amount to much. They are lazy and the worst generation ever. They are the most disrespectful…but I notice it is always the other person’s child.
If you tell a kid enough times that he is a duck, at some time or another he will begin to waddle. We get what we expect. If you expect nothing you won’t be disappointed. I notice we point our fingers but offer little cure…especially if it costs money.
We bully, we attempt to push their little round bodies into little square holes. As they attempt to find themselves, we attempt to make them into the image of ourselves.
I taught forever plus a day and found that the most interesting students, who became the most interesting adults, were the kooks and fruitcakes. The ones who thought outside of the box, colored outside of the lines and looked at the world sideways and created something beautiful. They were the leaders who refused to follow tired old lines. They were the ones who hated to hear “We’ve done it this way for….”
There was a time when we put a premium on free thinkers. Now it seems we don’t want free thinkers. They might be left thinkers and that just wouldn’t be right.
We want our mini-mes to toe the party line, drinking deeply from the propaganda Kool-Aid. It seems we want everyone lined up in rows like dominos, standing at attention, all boringly the same…and like a row of dominos when one tips over, they all tip over.
What if we just accepted people as they are. Nurtured instead of ridiculed. What is wrong with nurturing? You can be nurturing and not be soft. Put their little seeds in the ground not caring what the seed might be. Add water and fertilizer, weed the bed occasionally and see what they turn into. Provide a fertile bed for plants instead of chopping them off at the roots like weeds.
What if we accept people as they are?
Don Miller’s author’s page can be followed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM