[There have been some nasty exchanges going on around the internet. Name calling, ignorance and anger abound. It makes me sad, in this holiday season. This is my response.]
Once upon a time, there was a village. It had places of worship, food, restaurants, entertainment, education, goods to purchase, services to provide and lots of inhabitants. Most of the people were good, or at least, average. They stayed out of trouble. They were understanding. They were kind, or at least polite.
But if you went down one street, around a few corners and in one little cul-de-sac, you would find three nice, neat houses, snuggled in the freshly fallen snow. All three houses were well kept. They all seemed nice, and fairly indistinguishable, from the outside. But if you went in each, you would see how very different they were inside.
In the first house, there was, what appeared to be, a very typical family with a mom, dad, and two children, one girl and one boy. The mom and dad married very young. The mom gave birth to the children right away. She gave up her career to stay home and raise them. The dad was bitter and resentful, not openly, but deep inside, that he gave up a career for a job to pay the basic necessities for his family. He worked an average job and made just enough money to get by.
He thought he could soothe his bitterness by drinking. In his soothed state, he would say things that would embarrass his family and make them angry. But no one said anything to anyone else. The mom and dad would fight inside the house, but the family all seemed fine to those who stayed outside.
In the second house lived a quiet couple. The wife did not conceive a child for a very long time and this made her sad. But one day, against the odds, the couple was blessed with a child. The couple was happy and enriched. They were grateful, but life was hard. The child was different. The child was joyful and love abounded, but there were many challenges raising this child.
In the third house, lived a woman who neither had children nor wanted them. She desired more than anything, to be on stage – to have the world look at her. She knew that she could neither sing nor act. She knew she was too average for stardom. But she wanted to be in Hollywood.
She tried to act as a professional consultant to those she wished to be. She wanted all the material goods life could give her. She could not afford any of them. She was living in this village house, on this cul-de-sac pretending she could be something that she knew she could never be. Because of that, she was resentful of those around her.
She despised her neighbors. She despised their children. She did not speak to anyone she lived near because she did not want to know them. If she liked them, then she might become complacent and her dreams would be lost. She could not face reality.
The typical family children and the blessed child next door hit their pre-teen years. They attended the same school. The blessed child attended in a different classroom. He seemed to have help all the time. The typical neighbor children thought the blessed child was disruptive. They tried to play with him when they were younger but he would not respond. Sometimes, he would then say things to them that they thought were weird or rude. The typical children did not like the blessed child and stayed away from him.
All the families in the village had internet access. One night the typical dad was ranting during one of his soothing drinking episodes. The typical boy went to his room. He was angry. Angry at his dad for not giving him money to go to the movies. Angry that he was stuck at home in his room. He knew his sister had gone to dance class and he resented her for leaving him with his dad while she and her mom escaped.
He looked out the window. He saw the blessed child getting in the car with both his parents and a person who was at their house a lot. That guy seemed to be cool, yet he was hanging out with the blessed kid. The young pre-teen boy was angry and he wrote on the internet how he hated “retarded” people. He wrote how “retarded” kids shouldn’t get any help from anyone. He had to make it on his own. Why shouldn’t they?
On the other side of the blessed house was the disillusioned wanna-be. She looked out her window the same evening. She saw the blessed boy and his parents and the handsome young man get in their car to drive away in the snow, the light and the snowflakes looking just like it was out of a movie. She was angry.
Why should that handsome young man be hanging out with such average people and their “retarded” son, she thought? She wrote on the internet that parents of “retarded” kids were just out to make a buck off the system. They were fakers, all of them. They should not get any help, certainly not from young, handsome men who should be knocking on her door to be in the movies. She deserved to be in Hollywood.
The blessed family was on their way to the hospital. The blessed child had a particularly nasty fall after tripping over something in the house he did not see. He was upset. He was lonely. He could not communicate the way the other kids could. He could not make them understand how much he wanted and needed a friend.
The snow was falling. The houses were decorated. The blessed son was sad so few people understood him. Now, he had a fractured arm, too. And two days before Christmas, he was on his way to the emergency room to fix it.
The blessed parents’ were scared, tired and worried. They could not ask their neighbors to watch for the delivery man who was to deliver the special swing they wanted to set up inside the house for their son for Christmas. They did not know their neighbors. They both wanted to be in the emergency room with the aide who came at their son’s request.
Luckily, the blessed family was again blessed. The fracture would heal. They could come home. The blessed son went to bed. The blessed parents, finally able to breathe, sat down and decided to relax by reading some stories on the internet.
First, the dad found the anonymous story written by the typical son. The blessed dad was sad and angry. He wrote a story of his own. He rallied a whole community around the world, against this anonymous person, who wrote so derogatorily about the “r-word”. All those who commented were appalled. They rallied support for each other. They spread virtual love and hugs to each other. They called the anonymous person they thought was an adult, names of their own and talked about how their anger made them want to hurt him.
Then the blessed mom found the story by the disillusioned wanna-be. She was shocked. She and her husband were barely eeking out a living. They had almost lost their house in foreclosure because of all the bills to provide their son with therapy and medical help. She was sick to her stomach. The disillusioned wanna-be’s story was in a major newspaper. How could such a thing happen?
The blessed mom cried. She wanted to respond. But instead, with her husband on his own rant, her son finally asleep and the nearing of Christmas, she put on her coat and mittens and decided to go outside for a walk. She walked far away, tears in her eyes.
She came to an empty field. A lone tree stood lit by some anonymous donor of lights. It was a beautiful site to behold. Out on the cold winter night, she could see her own breath. She could feel her cold tears. She could hear the crunch of snow beneath her feet. She looked up. The sky had cleared and she could see the moon and the stars. She asked out loud, “Why God?”
There was silence. The kind of silence that comes only with newly fallen snow. The ice sparkled on the white beneath her. The moon shone above her.
“Is anger that breeds more anger and fear all we can look forward to this Christmas?” she asked. There was silence.
“Will ignorance ever change?” she whispered.
She heard many voices. One of them is yours. Mine is this:
Do you argue, with someone who cannot see, whether you are looking at orange or red? Do you argue, with someone who cannot feel, whether it tickles or stabs?
Reach out only to those who can be changed. People who don’t know can learn. People who think they know won’t listen. There are more who will listen than think they know, but you will encounter both in this world. Watch where you look to teach – you won’t find people who want to learn where you are looking now.
Peace be with you, this holiday season and always. Find peace and you will find happiness. With happiness, you can count your blessings and let the rest go. Because only with peace inside you, will you be strong enough to understand the rest.