Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Inflammatory Conversations

I'm beginning to see rapid re-posts of this horrid letter delivered to a woman who was babysitting her autistic grandson. It is shocking and disgusting.  Many comments I see in response to this letter are just as shocking and disgusting, though. People call for terrible things to happen to the woman and it makes me realize that so often we do not understand how to perpetuate love and kindness - we are more likely to bring more vile behavior to the table because we are so offended.

Yesterday, I was waiting for my laundry to finish when a woman walked in to begin hers. She was chatting on the phone and since there was no one other than myself there, I listened to what she was saying to her friend - she was speaking loudly and clearly within three feet of me.

However, I wanted to hug her and tell her that she was exactly right.  Apparently, the friend wanted to verbally destroy someone who had hurt her, but this gal went on and on about how that would only add fuel to a fire that needed to be put out. When the friend said something about how her feelings were hurt, the woman told her that feelings were temporary, but the lessons she taught her children would be life-long and she must want to teach them to be kind and loving, not mean and hurtful.

The woman talked of her ex-husband and how it would have been easy for her to say terrible things about him because of what he'd done, but she wanted her own kids to grow up understanding forgiveness, love, and kindness. She made a choice to treat him with respect and encourage her kids to do so as well even though he must have done awful things to her when they were together.

The conversation went on and on as she listened to her friend and attempted to calm her down, reiterating a call to be sensible, if nothing else, for the sake of teaching children the right way to interact with others.

Even in our response to awful behavior, we must remember to not lower ourselves to another's level.  We can't justify their actions by behaving as badly as they do.

My father told of a man who came in to his office once a month, like clockwork. As soon as he got into the office he began to curse and swear, verbally destroying everything that was happening around him.  Rather than getting upset with him and making things worse, Dad calmly listened, expressed his disagreement and thanked the man for taking the time to come in.  After a while, those visits began to become more random until he no longer had anything awful to swear and curse about.

I have a tendency to react quickly with my mouth and so I often walk away from a situation rather than respond to it. My response won't help the situation and I won't win anything by reacting, so a quick retreat is generally more appropriate. I have to ask myself if my words will change anything. If the answer is no, I don't need to encourage any continuation of a bad moment in time.

I have also found that publicly telling someone about their poor choices inflames the situations as well ... unless of course you are in the first grade and don't know any better.

When I did my student teaching in an elementary school in Cedar Rapids, I had a music classroom filled with first graders. The back of the piano faced the class and I was seated so I could look over it, see the children, and still play.  One little boy came up behind the piano, got up close to me and said, "I wet my pants and need to go to the office."  Apparently, they were prepared for this and had fresh clothes for him to wear. So far no one else in the room had seen what he had done and I knew that all he needed to do was leave by the door right behind me and still be saved the embarrassment of wet khaki pants in a class full of peers. I told him that it was fine and he could leave. I didn't want to inflame the situation by making this public.

He chose, instead, to walk back over to the side of the piano and stand in front of everyone. Why? I have no idea. Then he took off running out the door and down to the office.

Sometimes you can't help but make something public, I guess ... and after reading this awful story about a woman who needs more help than the autistic child she is degrading ... I thought you needed a story of an adorable child who still makes me giggle.  It occurs to me that he is at least 30 years old now. He'll never know how much he's made me smile over the years.

Instead of calling for this woman's head, avoid inflaming the discussion. Be that kindness and love to those around you.

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