So, you guys, I’ve been thinking about proximity. And distance. And how it can make us feel unusually safe. I mean, let’s be real for a moment, all of that glorious space between ME and YOU offers a sort of unspoken immunity from whatever you might be dealing with. After all, when I’m way over here it becomes pretty effortless to tuck empathy safely in the shadows and convince myself that your issues aren’t also my own.
And the labels. ALL OF THESE GOD-FORSAKEN LABELS. I get it. Life is messy. Labels offer order to a messy existence. And we create a world in which anything we’ve assigned as *DIFFERENT* is just scary because we crave order and we like distance and we want immunity from hard issues and, well, as far as I can tell, fear has never been a friend to empathy or compassion.
And then, when social spaces meet hungry fingertips, or we step too closely to our discomfort and react with stares or laughter or unkind words or (worse) hateful actions, we unknowingly fan the flames of our ego’s work. And it isn’t pretty. It fractures us. The ground beneath us splinters into a million tiny pieces and WE becomes ME and various parts of us are left on lonely islands feeling less than. LESS THAN. And we think, man I sure hope it isn’t ME that ever feels less than, PLEEEEEASE GOD LET IT BE THAT OTHER HUMAN OVER THERE. We silence empathy. We put a muzzle on compassion. And we definitely turn our backs on love. And then fear and judgment, those devious and wholly unloving trolls, are once again triumphant.
My heart cracked wide open on a recent morning as I watched my six year old walk into school. If you’ve never met him, he is laughter and sunshine and rainbows and karate moves and unexpected sing alongs and the world’s tightest hugs and HAPPINESS. So much joy in that tiny body of his, it’s magic. But, as he made his way into the building his steps were slow and his gaze was affixed on the pavement and the smile that typically lights up his beautiful face was absent.
And the hardest truth is that it was because of me. Because of us. Because just three days prior while at a soccer tournament I watched a young boy on the playground tease him incessantly for wearing “girl shoes.” Because my steadfast practice in benevolence was upstaged in that moment by a visceral urge to either cry out GOOD LORD CHILD WHY ON EARTH DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE COLOR OF HIS SHOES or fold this little stranger into my arms and offer a sincere apology on behalf of grown-ups across the land for convincing him that “we know best” while modeling these unkind, unloving, judgement-laden behaviors.
Because on this day when he pulled the rainbow-colored dress off the hanger, my ego screamed WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU IF YOU DON’T PROTECT HIM and I suddenly found myself offering familiar excuses. Are you sure? I should talk to your teachers first, maybe. I mean, it’s kind of chilly out for no sleeves, right? Don’t you love this colorful shirt, though? How about we wear that dress another day?
Pardon me for a moment as I rescue my weary heart off the ground, friends, because that’s where I left it that morning. On the curb at my child’s school, where I “protected” by convincing him that his heart was less than. Over a PIECE OF FABRIC (yes, it physically hurts to write that). That his feelings and desires in that moment were in some way less valid, because they weren’t my own. I left it in the place where I answered to fear and judgment by fueling its ugly intentions with more of the same.
This isn’t really just about my baby. It’s about ALL of our babies. EVERY human. And we know there are innumerable ways that we judge one another. This is way bigger than fabric. We let fear tell us what to do. We don’t lead with love. We make it about ME, not US.
How much longer will we expect parts of us (ESPECIALLY OUR BABIES) to shoulder the burden of our elected discomforts? When will we awaken from the vice grip of our egos and just LOVE one another EXACTLY as we are?
Fear sells us lies and attempts to stunt our growth. But, love…LOVE returns to our doorstep each day and waits patiently until we invite it into our hearts. Today is a new day and the Universe beckons us with a fresh opportunity to choose love over fear.
Today, let’s all stand a little closer. Let’s not be immune to one another. Let’s stare fear down and decide NO MORE. Let’s make sure joy is for EVERY part of us. Let’s quit it with all the labels. Let’s be JOY SPREADERS. Let’s be the reason that every human feels MORE THAN.
Let’s get this right.