Last night, I read a status of one of my facebook friends that really bummed me out.
She was in a grocery store buying alcohol among other groceries with her kiddo.
A child with another mom in line asked about it. The mom tried to shush the kid and then basically told the kid that "bad" people buy alcohol.
Then my friend's child asked her mama why that lady called them bad people.
It reminds me of an incident locally where I've been watching a group attack a family that is different and struggling and quite honestly not making the best of choices, but when you look closely it is obvious they need just one person to extend a hand of compassion and acceptance. Yet, this neighborhood that is notorious for turning a blind eye to things that should have a bright light shone on it, is handily ignoring the obvious need for love.
Finally, I think of something that has moved me and given me such joy that happened Sunday. I stuck my head in to my church leader on Sunday to give him our house phone number for a list. We made some small talk for a minute, all pleasant, but the part that stuck with me was a moment when I responed to something he said by saying, "I feel like we are where we are supposed to be," and his response was so very sincere (you could see it in his face and hear the earnestness in his voice) when he said, "You ARE." And then was talked another second. But that stuck with me. The simple acceptance of my family... of me. I knew with a surety he meant it and the feeling nearly brought me to tears.
Acceptance is a powerful thing.
Something I have truly learned through a trial of fire and I am continuing to learn and understand is the power of compassion and acceptance.
Not that I am perfect at it and not that you should just accept everything and everyone across the board. I'll be the first to admit that I have no problem with taking people who hurt children and tossing them in a deep dark hole and leaving them there. I have zero tolerance for those who hurt children and those who allow children to be hurt by their silence and other lack of action. But, for the most part, we can accept people, even from a distance which is sometimes necessary and love them.
Love and compassion doesn't always mean being best friends, or being friends at all. It means doing what we believe in our heart will be the kindest we can do. I have on occasion removed myself from a situation believing that it is the best way to show love and kindness to another person. I've kept that person in my heart and prayed that good would come to them and that one day an opportunity to show them love would present itself to me. Then I stay back and that is all I can do sometimes and that is okay.
Other times it is the acceptance of others through respecting differences. Lets take my friend at the grocery store. I don't drink and we teach the kids that we don't smoke or drink. But, we try to maintain the balance that drinking can lead to addiction and poor choices like driving under the influence, BUT all people have the right to make choices with the information they have at hand and someone who drinks alcohol is not a bad person, they just make choices that are different from us. And actually, studies have shown that alcohol in certain uses is beneficial to us. But in this addictive society, we choose to just avoid alcohol entirely.
We make different choices too. We use cloth diapers and some people think we are insane for it. We aren't, just different.
I have babies in a hospital, not at home and some people think that is foolish of me, while others argue that a woman giving birth at home is asking for disaster. Both are wrong. We take the information we have and our life experience and we go from there. Forcing our views and beliefs on others and saying it is the only way... what does that remind us of?
We don't have to compromise ourselves to accept others. We can agree to disagree. Even in the grocery store. What if that mother has made other choices? What if she had told her son (as she apologetically smiled at this stranger who is stuck in a discussion she surely would not want to be in) that the lady is buying alcohol and that is her choice and it is okay because we all can make choices? What if she said that it doesn't make her bad, it makes all people different and that is wonderful. I have actually HAD that conversation with my kids in the store before. Most people understand that kids just blurt things out and while I've been embarrassed, I've tried to just say, "yes, that is something we don't do as a family, but it is okay if they do. They are an adult and they get to make their own choices and it is okay." Because that is all I really can say in that moment. (And if you have better ideas, please enlighten me because I am always open to more ideas.)
With those around us who are different... loud, dirty, annoying, odd, whatever they are that we don't love... why is it so hard to show love? Take a plate of cookies over, give a nod or a wave. Pick up their kids' bikes off the sidewalk for them and put them on the lawn. Maybe people who appear to be unfriendly to us are just intimidated or feel out of place. We can take that step to make them feel welcome and then let it sit. We've done our part and that is all we can do.
Why did it mean so much to be told I was where I was supposed to be this past Sunday?
Because I was given a gift in that moment, a knowledge that I was accepted in spite of my flaws. That who I was was good enough to be there and appreciated. That feeling is such a warm wonderful thing. Two simple words that answered a prayer in my heart and gives me a desire to work harder and giving the same to others. I hope I can improve myself and teach my kids to be that open and accepting to those who need it.
We can all be a little better and open our hearts to love more. What would it hurt anyway?