This week’s advice column is going to be a little different. This week’s advice is not for a mother, or a husband, or a daughter, or a brother. This week’s advice is for humanity. With the recent events involving a specific food chain, and the massive social uproar it has caused, I plead with each and every one of you to practice COMPASSION. Compassion is defined as “a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it.” It is derived from the latin word “compati”, com- with + pati- to bear or suffer. Compassion allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of someone other than ourselves and see the world through their eyes. It gives us a gift of being able to judge how our actions might influence their life.
We have compassion for little children. When they fall down, we instantly want to pick them up and ensure they are intact. We want to clean off their scrapes, slap a band-aid on the boo-boo, and hug them until the crying subsides. We want to protect children we don’t even know from the dangers of the world. Why are we any different towards teenagers? Towards adults?
We are so quick to judge our peers that we forget to SEE them as human beings. Everyone has a story that we will never know. Everyone has been through some traumatic experience that we would never wish on our worst enemy. Not everyone is competition in this rat race that is life. Everyone is just a child on the inside, needing someone to pick them up and ensure that they are still “intact” from time to time. We need to remember this when we behave in way that could possibly break another human.
Last week, the lines in front of the aforementioned food chain sent a message. But it was NOT the message most participating thought it was sending. It was sending a message of divide, of unrest, of judgment. It was saying that some people are different and we don’t like their kind of different. But let’s stop and think for a second. Let’s remind ourselves that we are ALL different, every single one of us. No one on this entire planet, comprised of billions of people, is exactly like you. No one. Now consider how you would feel if hundreds of thousands of people joined together to send a message that YOUR kind of different is just too different to accept. YOUR kind of different is not equal. YOUR kind of different is WRONG.
We have witnessed this message over and over again throughout history. Women’s suffrage and the black civil rights movement were the most recent. Women were told that what made them different made them INFERIOR; they shouldn’t be allowed to vote, they shouldn’t be allowed to work, they shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion or speak their mind. Blacks were told that what made them different made them DISUSTING; they shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the white population, drink from the same water fountains, use the same restrooms, occupy the same section of the bus or courtroom or theater. But women and blacks, they fought and triumphed this treatment as second class citizens with the help of others that felt COMPASSION. Men marched with women, white marched with blacks. People that were not directly affected by this mistreatment felt compassion, and that made all the difference.
Now we stand on the edge of a new “civil rights movement”. One that is not defined by gender or skin color, but by LOVE. We are a country that boasts freedom and equality, but every single day we deny both to our citizens. Why is this? Who is one group to say that another is so different from them that they don’t deserve EQUAL rights? Who is one group to say to another that YOUR type of different is WRONG? Have we not learned from our past that this way of thinking benefits NO ONE? We need people to set aside their holy books and dogma for one minute, just sixty seconds, and SUFFER WITH those that are different than they. SUFFER WITH that teenager in high school being called “freak” and “faggot” who goes home and contemplates suicide. SUFFER WITH that teacher that has to hide her sexuality to keep her job. SUFFER WITH that young man that wants to KNOW that his parents love him unconditionally, yet he’s too afraid to test it. SUFFER WITH everyone who just wants to love and be loved. SUFFER WITH everyone affected by the message last week that their “different” was just too different too accept. Until we can pick every single person up, ensure that they are entact, and hug them until the crying stops, we are no further along as a society than we were 100 years ago. That, in and of itself, is the most shameful thing a country that boasts progress and equality can admit.
I will leave you with this quote, as it is a good one; “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.