I remember it as this: it was always the poor, disadvantaged kids who were nicer.
I mean, not always. There was that field trip to Salem where my best friend’s shoes were made fun of by one of the “badasses” of our class, and there was that one bully who so thoughtfully nicknamed me Turtle due to my unathletic, overweight nature. I remember leaving the junior high dance one night, crying, because my flowered leggings apparently warranted the label of “slut” – this, to a girl who wouldn’t be kissed until she was 15. My mother cried that night too.
But I have seen more acts of kindness from the kids from the “other side of the tracks” now that we’re grown, and kinder, and our edges have been sanded down. And it was the same kids who gave me compliments when I lost weight (albeit, unhealthily, but how could they have known?)
It was the higher-scoring, soccer-playing, Z-Cavaricci wearing kids who didn’t give a fuck – now or then. It was as if they were exempt from not clapping for me when I got an award “because I was Amanda Bruce”, or from making fun of their friend who had to kiss me in the school play (FYI, there’d be a bunch of dudes from the Greater Boston area who’d disagree with you today, suckers.) It was interesting. Achievement and money put a veil over their eyes, blinding them from the spiritual blunders they made. I see it in the different financial populations I’ve counseled today as well.
I could see how some people might think I’m stuck in the past, that I might be…pitiful, not moving on. (My husband and I have a joke, that I’m like Steve Buschemi’s character from Billy Madison, the one that crosses Billy off his “People to Kill” list after Billy apologizes to him for bullying. Google it, it’s hilarious.) But I know who I am. And I think it’s really important to talk about our own personal truths and have them be honored. It’s only by doing so that other people can honor theirs. Vulnerability reaps compassion.
In the end, I know that hurt people hurt people. And that’s why all the kids who did what they did to that one observer girl who sat silently in class. They were just as hurt as I was, regardless of class or ability to get an A in level 5 English.
Recently, (with both positive and negative qualities) I’ve felt warrior-like. Willing to swoop in and take whatever I’ve earned. On a run recently, I watched a red-tailed hawk dive in from nowhere, pounce on a smaller bird, and ascend back into the sky, with no guilt or misgivings. The hawk knew what it wanted, and it went for it. I identify with that.
But with that hawk’s ruthlessness comes a tricky balance of justice. When you start to take what you want, without thought; when you start to embrace your power after being at a disadvantaged place – the scales can tip too far the other way, sometimes. I often have to watch that in myself. I cannot mistake passion for ruthlessness. I cannot be rash because I suddenly am successful.
I want more compassion. I want more justice. I want communities where people are willing to apologize for hurt feelings, even if they didn’t intend to hurt. I want painful truths, spoken over and over and over again, until those who deny their very existence can no longer do so. Until they are acknowledged. I want this, for my 4 year old child who will enter kindergarten in the Fall of 2017. Recently, I watched some of the same ignorance and bullying happen to my extended family in that very town I grew up in; it was hard to think that nothing had changed. The town could be better than that.
I find it so interesting some members of our world have come to view compassion as an Achilles’ Heel, when it is actually the biggest superpower of all.