Ugly and Unkind.

 

Brutal honesty here.

So tonight I realized that I have an ugly and unkind heart. Well, being charitable, maybe it’s more of an ugly and unkind streak in an otherwise earnest and hopeful heart. At least, I’d like to think so.

How did I learn this awful truth?

I saw a social media post from an individual who was reaching out humbly for some support, not knowing where else to turn.  The person was one whom I knew in passing and observation.  Not personally…because for one reason or another –  I can’t really recall – I never cared for that person, so I began to regard them with disdain.

It started with dismissal and light mockery in my head and a nickname I bestowed (I thought it was witty) when talking to my friend.  I think I just found the person an odd bird at first, and then pretty soon, our limited interaction served only to confirm my self-fulfilling thoughts.  At that point, anything that was said or done just added weight to my opinion.  Without any understanding, armed only with my assumptions, I was pretty smug.  And so it was easy to write this individual off or use them as a punchline.  I got a lot of mileage out of it.

So then tonight happened.

And it was then I realized that this was a real person with a story, and I was a petty, self-righteous hypocrite. I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own standards, and yet I felt comfortable judging someone for — what, exactly?  Being different.  But aren’t we all?  I let my initial impression morph into something ugly and unkind, and I went along for the ride.  In my imagination, I’d already written some backstory that fit in with what I thought I already knew, which was mostly my creation.  I never realized how far I let it go until now.

I’m sure it took a lot to ask for help.  Most of us have too much pride for that, don’t we?  And it’s easy to judge a person who offers up too much information, laying themselves bare and open like that.  Too needy.  Attention whore. But I still believe that it took courage for them to ask, knowing they could easily be humiliated.

It put a lump in my throat, quite actually.

I’ve been judged and I’ve been misjudged. I’ve been mocked and dismissed and treated ‘less than.’ And I didn’t like it, and I didn’t deserve it, and yet here I am puking it out of my own mouth. Shame on me.

Wretched.

My mother’s words are in my head:  You are not perfect, either.

She’s right, of course.

And I’m sorry.  I pledge to start fresh and extend a hand to this person in some way. The post has received a lot of positive response from others, and I am glad to see that.  I am ashamed that mine is not among them.  I have to work on my own heart and mind before I can reach out to that person, but I will, you can be certain of that. Because I just saw myself in a mirror and I don’t like what I saw.

In closing, I leave you with this:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

 

 

 

image credit AhmadHammoud

A Birthday Story.

Coconut Cake

So this last weekend I attended a birthday party for my very dear friend; I love her as a sister. She’s a gourmet cook, a planner, an organizer, and a doer. My friend is amazing in many ways, but one of the traits I admire most is her ability to bring people together. She is a most gracious hostess, a role she embraces with enthusiasm. I have helped with numerous parties and get-togethers at her home, where I’ve met dozens and dozens of her and her husband’s friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. These are people from all walks of life who come together around her table, and it is a glorious sight to see.

So it happened that as dessert was being served in the dining room, I was standing next to another friend, talking about her luscious coconut cake. After a moment he looked down at the dining room table and said something nostalgic like, Boy, that table sure has seen some good times, hasn’t it?  And I nodded and said, “It sure has.”

Around that table we’ve enjoyed many holiday meals, special desserts, and cheap Chinese takeout. We have assembled hundreds of kebabs and filled hundreds of plastic Easter eggs there. We have danced, sung songs and been an appreciative audience to violin, piano and guitar performances. We have given thanks, told jokes, offered toasts and discussed politics.  And we’ve played games: Greed, Family, Cranium, even Cards Against Humanity.

Some of the best times I’ve had in that house have been around that table. And this is where I see the power of the gift my friend has, because here, we are all equals.

Around that table sit the housewife and the artist, the winemaker and the corrections officer, the teacher and the landscaper, the student and the retiree, and the scientist and the yoga teacher. Police and former addicts, strangers with no place to go, vegetarians and carnivores, Harley riders and bicycle racers, they’re all there. Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Heinz 57 — makes no difference because we’re all friends and family. That table is like a little melting pot, and we all have that in common, even if little else.

All because of my friend — whose heart, as Mr. Stuck might say, is as big as Texas.

I wanted to give this toast to her on her birthday, but before I had the chance, she gave a most eloquent and emotional talk about love, standing on a chair so everyone could hear. She called upon us to reach into our hearts and think of what makes us happiest, then to send that warmth to a mutual friend who could not celebrate with us because she is undergoing treatment for cancer. It was very moving, and nothing more could be said. Our hearts were as one at that moment, and I hope our absent friend could feel the love.

So I offer this up as my tribute to my incredible friend, who used her own special day to shine light on someone else, because that is her way. It is through her that so many of us from so many different places in life have come together to be friends, and I am forever grateful.

You are amazing and wonderful, and I love you.

 

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photo credit: Southern Foodways Alliance