Do you ever just look around you and shake your head in disappointment?
There have been several occasions when I’ve done it myself. I’m referring to the different places you and I go where life happens; home, school, work, stores, just every day places where we interact with others. . . Bob on Sesame Street sang about it years ago, “…the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day…” As I recall those memories it sure seems as though those were much simpler times, and perhaps happier times.
I’ve been living for over 50 years now, and things have certainly changed from when I was a child. People are different, or at least they seem to act differently than they used to. I think when I got to about the age of 30 I really started noticing that the culture in America was rapidly changing and because I had become a mother of four, I was becoming more concerned about certain things which may not have bothered me as much before motherhood. Having children and taking responsibility for how they “turned out” was taken very seriously by me. I had had a hard time growing up, mostly because I was a foster kid who had been abandoned by my birth mother and separated from my siblings. And, even though I was eventually adopted by the second set of foster parents, they were only able to do the best they could with what they knew. While they were far from perfect (as we all are) I can honestly say if it wasn’t for them, I have NO IDEA where I’d be. . . but that’s a story for another time. The point I’m trying to make is the reason I poured myself into parenting my children, is to hopefully reap the rewards of knowing they would grow up to be wonderful people, who know how to love others, make a positive impact on the world around them, find their purpose and live it out, and if they are blessed to have children, then hopefully they would follow my example and be an even better parent than I. Not trying to brag or boast because believe me, I messed up on so many levels. But this I know–I may have loved imperfectly, but I loved each of them uniquely and passionately. I did my best to engage with them individually and build them up, always making myself available and letting them know I would never turn my back on them, EVER…no matter what. I sacrificed for them in ways they never knew or understood, but their needs were always more important than my own. I didn’t completely neglect myself, but I knew that one day they would be gone and I would have time for myself when that time came, so I did what I had to do to so that they would know that they were loved, they were important, and their lives mattered. I wanted to raise up confident human beings who would be compassionate and caring, bold and courageous, who would be willing to step up and make a difference where they could and always be willing to help their fellow human beings. I prayed for them and tried to teach them to think of others before themselves hoping that they would never become vain, selfish, unkind, greedy, uncaring, self-centered, miserable people who only take from others or look for how they can benefit themselves in every situation.
I am happy to share that I am proud of each of my children and the ways that they have chosen to live their lives. I still pray for them daily and I am reaping the rewards of doing my best as a parent. My two oldest have families of their own and are doing their best (and are probably realizing why I did some of the things I did.) And, as dysfunctional as our family was while they were growing up, they are each still growing daily with a desire to be a better person than they were the day before. I hope they continue to be the compassionate, caring, kind and courageous people who live to make a positive difference in the world around them because our world could sure use more people like that. Which brings me back to why I started this post in the first place; I am overwhelmed by the amount of self-centered, ugly people in the world.
Working in retail, I was daily exposed to what seemed like the worst in people. I tried to think positively and look for the good in people, and on most days I tried to “combat evil” with goodness. But, I not only had to deal with this from the guests in the store, but also from a very miserably unhappy co-worker who did everything she could to stir up strife and bully those around her. She lied, manipulated, and was flat out mean to people for unknown reasons other than she had an “ugly heart”. Needless to say, there were days when I really hated going to work. I had to learn to not take things personally and to walk away from situations before they got to me. There were so many moments that I seriously had a hard time believing my eyes and ears; situations and attitudes that left me speechless, and at times heartbroken, as I considered the condition of humanity. Lazy, disrespectful people making a mess of the store, dropping things without picking them up, ripping open packages, stealing, and treating others with rudeness. Teenagers disrespecting their parents, and parents completely disconnected from their children. People walking through the store on their cell phones using vulgarity with no concern who can hear them. Couples speaking with contempt toward one another, and children screaming at the top of their lungs while their parent is staring at their cell phone or looking at merchandise. These are just a few of the examples of what society looks like at a glance, I have also seen and experienced some darker issues as a guest service manager at a hotel, and I understand that if we were able to dig deeper we would see the real issues that cause such ugliness, brokenness, and dysfunction. We all suffer from the same “disease” at the core of our being.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know there is hope because I found it. I can’t change the world, but I can make a difference in the places that I go and for the people that I meet. I can choose to love instead of hate, bless instead of curse, and forgive others as I have been forgiven. I can choose to look for the best in people even when they show me their worst. And, I can choose to shine brightly in a world that seems to be getting darker every day. I refuse to become part of the problem and I’ll never stop believing that good overcomes evil every time.
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall