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The Antidote


I like to think that in general, people are good.  We’ve had so many people be sweet and generous to us, even people we didn’t know.  I really do believe in the kindness of strangers, and even titled one of my posts, “Climbing Mountains, Thanks to the Kindness of Strangers.”  But sometimes the bullies get me down.  And I absolutely hate the fact that one mean-spirited comment can somehow negate the hundreds of positive interactions we’ve had.

Olivia started middle school just three weeks ago.  She was excited, elated, energized by the possibilities.  I was terrified.  But, as usual, her positive attitude and energy prevailed, and she was off to a great start, loving every minute of this new experience (well, maybe everything but dressing out for PE…shoe tying is still a challenge, especially in a time crunch!).  I began to relax and feel that once again I had anticipated the worst and been undeservedly dealt the best.  And I still feel that way, with one small exception.  A few nights ago, Olivia confided in me that there had been an incident on the bus.  As she was getting off at her stop, a girl behind her said to a friend, “Oh, she’s that freaky disabled girl.” My immediate reaction was, thankfully, just in my head.  “Who is she?!  Where does she live?! I don’t care if she’s a child, I’m taking her out!!”  Then I took a deep breath and asked Olivia how she responded.  “I just walked away.  There’s really nothing you can do when people do that, Mom.”  Sometimes her wisdom just blows me away.  And other times, it makes me want to cry.  Her comment reminded me that this is not the first time this has happened, and not the first time she’s had to “just walk away.”  She’s right, and yet it is SO wrong. Obviously, this is not the worst thing someone could say to another person, but it’s far from being the kindest.

It just makes me wonder… Why is anyone making comments that we have to walk away from?  Why do people have to be so mean?  And what motivates a child to be cruel to another child? I know that the times I have been unkind to someone, either out of anger or frustration or just plain old crabbiness, I felt terrible afterwards.  I was ashamed of my meanness and wished I had a chance for a do-over.  I think most of us feel that way.  Our emotions get the best of us and we act in ways that we shouldn’t.  But these comments that are made, not out of anger or fear or in response to feeling threatened, these are the comments I can’t understand, and possibly can’t forgive.  To be hurtful to another human being simply because we can is unforgivable.

I don’t have any answers or solutions, and it will probably seem that this post is more venting than anything else.  But maybe, someone will read this and try to put a little more kindness out there.  It is perhaps the best antidote to the cruelty.   As J.M. Barrie, author of the play Peter Pan said, “Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”

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