Our tiny town lost a child yesterday. A first grader succumbed to cancer. Whatever your faith, whatever your nonfaith, whatever your journey or life experience, this is a tragedy. A life lost before it got started. A potential never reached. Silence, not laughter. Emptiness never to be filled with love and joy and the growing pains of raising an innocent child to adulthood.
Sadly, a dear friend relayed the loss of a child in her hometown two days ago. An eighth grader took his own life. Rumor had it he was bullied. Another loss. Another silence in the hearts of family, friends, neighbors, teachers, basketball coaches, peers, future employers, a future spouse and future children. Another gaping hole where once a child lived.
Each and every life is precious. Each and every one.
Yet, if I started layering these stories with other information, opinions might begin to change. Humans are judgemental. We let our values and prejudices interfere with our basic human compassion. We put ourselves–and those like us–on pedestals and deem others somehow inferior, somehow less deserving.
I hear it all the time. As a court advocate for kids, as a mother, a member of social groups, a Christian, a wife, a coworker. Every role I play puts me in a position to hear–and pass–judgment on others.
Too often, I hear compassion slip away as information is revealed.
“Her dad is black.” Or Hispanic. As if this is somehow the reason behind the grades a child gets in school or how well she sits in class. For the record, plenty of “white” kids get poor grades and fidget through first grade. They also bring weapons to school and drink and get detention for smart-mouthing teachers. Yet, I’ve never heard, “Her dad is white.”
“He’s gay.” As if this somehow negates the very idea that he could love a child without having perverse thoughts toward it. Hello, folks. Lots of molested children are victims of heterosexuals. Lots. More than you care to consider. Some of them by biological fathers or grandfathers or uncles or brothers or mothers. Yes, that happens, too. And far more often than you’d care to consider. Our children’s sexual safety isn’t in danger from homosexuals, but rather from a pool of psychologically aberrant individuals taken from every race, religion, gender and profession.
“Ugh. She lives in a trailer.” As if this automatically relegates a child to a life of unwashed clothes, headlice and burger flipping. I grew up in a trailer, as did my business-owning, neat-as-a-pin, liceless brother-in-law. I’ve been in tidy trailers and trashed mansions.
“But they’re Muslim.” Or Catholic, or Buddhist, or Methodist, or Lutheran, or Atheist, or Wiccan. As if these people are incapable of doing anything productive, compassionate or selfless simply because of what they believe or don’t believe in regards to faith. Plenty of Christians I know are hypocritical, selfish and judgemental. Just like plenty of people in every other religion or nonreligion known to man.
We are human. We persecute those different from us. We are brash and cruel, thoughtless and dehumanizing. We forget the very basic, underriding compassion for others even as we tell the world how wonderful we are.
We suppress and oppress. We judge people on factors that may or may not have any impact on events, behaviors or failures. We generalize and stereotype. We inhibit and prohibit.
We forget to strip away the irrelevant information and remember that underneath, we were all innocent children. Are innocent. That we are all precious and deserving of respect and compassion regardless of where we came from, whom we love or what our faith.
Take a moment to evaluate your own prejudices and judgements. Ask yourself where they came from and why you feel the way you do. Consider if your feelings have been passed down through the generations and have relevance in your life in the here and now. Is it a stereotype you’ve learned from television, the newspaper, your preacher? Is it a generalization you’ve made based on personal experiences? Is holding onto it conducive to living your life? Do you take into account other’s personal experiences before foisting your values onto them? Do you have room to improve?
You don’t need to answer those questions here, but I ask that you think about them as you go about your day. Don’t let the loss of our innocent children slip away forgotten, because underneath the labels we paste on ourselves and others, we are all inherently the same.
*Thoughtful and respectful commentary is welcome, regardless of the content. However, any blatantly disrespectful comments will not be approved. This blog does not support attacking individuals or groups of individuals for any reason.