Things I Want My Son To Know #23 ~ Value Every Life

The whole country is rejoicing that our armed forces finally got Osama Bin Laden; and well they should. But there is something troubing about the over the top, hysterical parties celebrating death; it is somehow unseemly. The interviews with the first responders who survived 9/11 have a very different tone, and we should learn something from that. They are glad but subdued, they know its right but know it won’t bring anyone back. In general, a death for a death is not a good policy if you really think it through. But, as usual, I digress.

What all this is really about is that we should not celebrate death, we should celebrate life. When you pass a homeless person on the street, don’t laugh or make fun of them; try not to look away. Each of those people is or was the loved one of someone, a son, a daughter, a father, a brother. They are not homeless and dirty because they chose it as a way of life consciously or rationally.

When you meet someone you dislike, try to listen to their point of view; try to understand how they came to it. You may never agree but you may learn something. How people got where they are is extremely instructive about how they think and feel and why.

When you think about crime and criminals remember that nobody is just the one worst thing they have ever done. You don’t want to be judged by the one worst thing you have ever done. They are also sons and daughters of parents who loved them in many cases; in other cases they were the children of terrible abusers. Either way, it is not just about the crime.

When you meet a farmer in overalls, don’t assume you are better then he because you wear a shirt and tie to work. Farmers feed us and, hopefully, take care of the earth. It is terrible hard work, often with little reward. Listen to what he has to say; you will definitely learn something about work ethic and committment.

When you meet the President, whether you agree or disagree, you should respect the office and the terrible obligations it presents. You should be able to hold a conversation ~ be well read enough and know enough about your world to speak with intelligence.

In every case, value what is good in people and don’t dwell on the bad. In every case, be a good listener and you will be a good learner, you will understand people just a little better. In every case, be able to talk to people. When you can talk to a homeless woman on the street and to the President with equal interest, and everyone in between, then you will be a well-rounded person.

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Mudslides, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

On the news was a story about a train in Italy that was derailed by a flash mudslide. So far eleven deaths are reported. The mudslide was allegedly caused by the bursting of an irrigation pipe. We all have friends that have gone from diagnosis to death in short periods of time but even that gives a moment, a window, to try to prepare, to say goodbye. I thought about this most ordinary activity, riding the train; one moment riding, the next gone in a mountain of mud. What a terrible death. And then there are those swallowed or crushed by their homes and offices collapsing on them in an earthquake; or drowned in the wave of an unavoidable tsunami. This brought me the myriad ways in which sudden death happens ~ just think of those killed by drunk drivers in the flash of an eye. Sorry if you are depressed now. But trite as it seems, it made me stop and think how lucky I am. How lucky my family is. We have been touched by very little sudden or “unnatural” death; although there has been some. Maybe writing this will jinx that, but I don’t think so. I think luck is luck and life is life. As the parent of an only child (a hard found adopted one at that) I fear always that something will happen to him ~ opening our arms to let him fly is very hard but has to be done. My mother’s revenge is complete; she told me that once I had a child I would worry for the rest of my life. I can love her so much more now for worrying about me where I used to find it annoying because I understand it so much better; particularly as my child is driving and testing his wings. My prayers now are often just to keep my family safe, the love of my life, my child, my brothers and their children. This past year has taught us nothing if not that disaster can strike in the blink of an eye; a fire, a flood, a wreck. As full as my life is of the tasks that must be managed, job, child, dad, caregivers, husband, meals, shopping, whatever, it is time to practice what I would tell my friends, stop, smell, listen, breathe. The chores will still be there. So this Saturday, as an act of sheer gratitude, I did nothing at all. I lay outside and read until it grew too hot, then I lay on the sofa and read until it was time to eat or sleep. I worked on not feeling guilty, but just actually relaxing. The only armor I have against fear is gratitude and faith. I pray for the poor souls left behind, they are the ones suffering and I am grateful not to be among them.

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