Got Compassion?

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An original piece of my artwork inspired by two beautiful compassionate children – Pippa and Sunna

 

“Oh I don’t know, Tourette’s can be kind of fun. I knew someone with TS and he would throw the “F” word around all the time,” the stranger said with a laugh.

Silence. Suddenly I was bombarded by the image pain of Jake sticking his finger down his throat hundreds of times a day. I was reminded of the time I stood in the kitchen doorway, unknown to him, as he repeatedly punched himself in the stomach, tears running down his face. He was six. I recalled the angry stares of strangers who judged him every time we were out. And I felt my words stick in my throat as they so often do.

Sadly, this is a scenario that has played out in many forms over the years. I have since learned to speak out for Jake and other people like him who live with the suffering that accompanies Tourette’s and OCD. I can assure you none of them are having fun.

When Jake was diagnosed I was under the impression that his biggest problem would be peer bullying. Kids can be cruel. What I have learned instead, is that adults tend to be the worst bullies of all.

Over the years I’ve wondered about this. Why, when adults have so much more life experience, are so many lacking in compassion? How do they justify such insensitive remarks?

As adults we tend to inhabit our own space, both physically and mentally. The longer we remain earthbound, the easier it is for us to grow cynical and care less and less about the “big” world, concentrating instead on our personal lives. Unless a person’s life has been touched in some way by disability, and special needs, I think they just don’t get it. Instead, they are driven by the media’s skewed stereotypes.

All people with Tourette’s curse. False. Less than 10% are afflicted with coprolalia – a tic that causes them to use obscene language. I once met a twelve year old boy who was deaf because one of his tics was to box himself in the ears. I’ve seen a fifteen year old girl in a wheelchair because one of her tics was squatting while she walked. Hilarious,right?

All people with OCD are neat and are germaphobes. Just give them some hand sanitizer and all is well. False. Jake’s OCD immobilizes him at times, making him unable to leave the house. He struggles every day with repetitive thoughts and fears, causing him severe social anxiety. Good times, yeah?

Clearly, there is no humor in these conditions or any others.

So what’s different about how children process these differences. I think that children are simply more connected to the world than we are. They are newer beings on this Earth and are naturally curious. They haven’t been media-trained in the ways of callousness. We have so much to learn from them, and such a responsibility to protect them from becoming hard-edged.

But I think it’s important to note that compassion is more than just caring. As connected Beings we all need to practice empathy more than sympathy. And if we allow ourselves to reconnect with our spiritual side (not religious – that’s completely different and man-made), we will realize that it’s our natural state because we are all connected.

So how about you? Got Compassion?

Lesson Learned

I promised myself with this site that I wouldn’t commit to a certain schedule of postings. Instead, I write when the muse hits. And I write about whatever I’m compelled to write about.

Tonight I feel like writing about high school. Or at least a certain aspect, for me, about high school.

I went to an all girl Catholic high school. My husband thinks that sounds very Britney Spears-Baby-One-More-Time-plaid-skirt-knee-socks and all that.

Thank God he didn’t know me then. I was more Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t smell my hands after shoving them in my armpits or anything like that, but I wasn’t exactly oozing sexiness either.

I graduated in 1985 – the year of “We Are the World”, New Coke, and Back to the Future. I had my group of friends that I hung out with – a mixture of my BFF’s from school and my theater friends.

An interesting side note – in my school we were segregated from the get-go by our “intelligence”, which was determined by a test we took in 8th grade. We were divided into A1 and A2, B, C, and D groups. Yes, those letters represented our grades. Looking back I realize how horrible this system was.

I was in the A1 group and spent most of my time worrying about getting “demoted” to A2 or worse. And being put into preselected groups like that allowed certain assumptions to be made. People in A1 were supposed to be super smart. People in D group were the party girls. Now I’m not saying I had any specific thoughts one way or the other, but any type of separation tends to promote stereotypical thinking.

High school is cliquey enough on its own. I think most of the cliques just happen naturally, as a result of interests and bonds made pre-high school. Whatever the case may be, I remember making assumptions about people based on outward appearance, the way they handled themselves, where they lived etc. All unfair, but natural for most.

The cheerleaders had it all. Confidence? Check. Good looks? Check. Boyfriend? Check. Life was perfect for them. Or so it seemed to me. No one was dealing with problems like me. I lived in a bubble filled with low self-esteem, an eating disorder, a parent who was dying, and ongoing financial problems (I drove a Gremlin for God’s sake!).

I remember going to our 20 year class reunion and talking with everyone. Of course by this time we were all older, and I remember thinking how cool it was that people from the “popular” group were talking with me. Then I had a good laugh at myself.

In talking with the girls, however, I began to realize that I had more in common with them than I thought. Most of the girls that I saw as perfect because they were pretty and popular, had just about as much self-esteem as I did back then. They were just a lot better at faking it than I was. And many had some pretty heavy things going on that I was completely oblivious to.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and get to know the ones that seemed “out of my league”. I think of all the friendships I missed out on because of the high school mentality we must all find our way through.

I’ve gotten to know several of these girls from high school through social media, and I am very grateful for that.Now, more than ever, I am aware of the fact that all of the drama is a part of growing up and finding your way to the truth that we aren’t really all that different from each other. We are all cut from the same cloth. And I truly believe that the sooner we recognize that as a race, the sooner we can make this planet the beautiful home it is meant to be.

This post is dedicated to all my Saint Vincent Academy sisters, especially to those I never got to know.