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we-all-have-our-baggage

Several days ago, I saw a Daily Post prompt asking people if they hold a grudge or “forgive and forget.” Since then, this topic has been rolling around my brain, so I can assuredly say that I do not forget!

My brain and memories are very important to me. The things that I remember can be painful and did hurt, but they also informed me, taught me, and developed my sensitivity and empathy.

Having taught, I do remember the students, both good and bad, who have been part of the lessons along the way. I have not forgotten the lousy bosses or corporate back-stabbing. I recall my New York commutes and muggings. Those who were selfish, egotistical, mean, rude, disparaging and dispirited are part of the cadre of remembered.

People who behave that way, and treat others that way, are an anathema to me. I cannot possibly understand why they want to be remembered as that kind of person or why they would want others to remember the stupid things they should have forgotten to say out loud!

The bullies have not been forgotten though time has removed some of the sting. Yet, the words have not been forgotten and the body language and facial micro-movements have been catalogued in my brain. My memory has served as a training ground and provided me with people skills and self awareness.

So, do I hold a grudge? Well, I have to keep going and moving forward. But, I never forget. I cannot forget the history of my family and the stories archived of their lives and legacy. History is doomed to repeat itself, so based on all that has occurred in just the last 100 years, as well as the last 100 days, none of us should ever forget the past.

I cannot forget the stigma and shame of people afraid to take medication for fear of what others will say about them or their children. People forget the bravery it takes to tackle personal challenges head on. I cannot forget what economic issues my family experienced, so my empathy is well developed towards others who struggle. The tears that have been shed in grief, loss and despair are not forgotten because I have felt them too.

Watching loved ones’ health deteriorate so severely and completely, I cannot forget the pain I see in someone else’s eyes. I try to remember my manners even when others behave badly; courtesy, kindness and compassion should never be forgotten.

In fact, it really is not ever forgotten. To anyone who has struggled financially, an unexpected check in a birthday card or the kindness of strangers means the world. For someone spending days in the hospital, and nights alone, a cup of coffee or a check-in call really can be a life saver. An individual so split with grief cannot think about the numerous errands and demands of daily life and will cry with relief when someone offers a helping hand. The flowers received or the laugh shared helps to temporarily forget the difficulties and traumas that still lie outside the door.

Caring and compassionate behavior has the power to change lives and move worlds. Kindness is the Grace of memory.

To the people I wish I could forget, I will remember the lies you said to my face and behind my back always. It is a reminder of what people can do to others in the name of the ego and false friendship.

To the people who helped to light my path when it was dark and desolate, you gave me a gift that I will always remember. It is my hope that I will share it with as many people as I can and that they will remember to share it with others. Your kindness and example will not be forgotten, and while I may not carry a grudge (on the outside), I will carry a grin in my heart and growth within my soul.

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Thanks so much for stopping by! It means more than you know.
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Whatever we’re doing could be done with one intention. That intention is that we want to wake up, we want to ripen our compassion and we want to ripen our ability to let go. We want to realize our connection with all beings. ~ Pema Chodron

humanity house

In the work that I do, I have met literally thousands of people. Yes, it does seem incredible to me in hindsight, but in all of those meetings, there is the time I spend speaking to each one-to-one. It gives me lots of time to mentally review because I cannot easily forget the troubles of another or seeing someone’s pain or struggle.

Sometimes people come to me in groups of three or four people at a time. I speak with one person and then another takes his seat as the first moves to a different part of the room. While speaking with someone having difficulty communicating, and remembering a mailing address, another person sat across the room laughing at the interaction.

I looked at him and shook my head “no.” Again, the person in front of me had difficulty recalling the information. The other person in the back of the room watched us, laughing, as if we were some program for his entertainment.
I looked at him directly, as any mother figure might, and said “It is not nice to laugh at other people.” What was the response? ‘But it is funny.’ Not an apology, not an awareness or agreement, but giving himself permission to be amused at someone else’s misfortune.

How do people laugh at another’s pain? It is a concept that is totally foreign to me. Those times in Elementary school when others laughed at me made me angry and fueled a desire to hit back.

What separates us from our emotions and clear thinking about another human being? What synapse in the brain triggers that lack of awareness or understanding?
Not fifteen minutes before, the joker was asking me to understand the needs of his family and the strain it places on all of the souls within it.

These people travel from place to place, sleeping where someone gives them a bed, and eating where someone brings them food for free. They retell the stories of existence and struggling so that another will provide a charitable response.

Do we do that as well? Go from place to place on a daily basis, holding on to the routine and allowing ourselves to stay in the pattern of repetition without conscious thought or attachment? For some, each day is merely an effort to hold on, to put one foot in front of another, until they can receive food to eat and lay down to sleep. The “simple” actions of daily living are huge and take a supreme effort to accomplish what appears to others to be the most basic of functions.

To those who help the homeless, or protect the abused by creating shelters of safety, who welcome military families while their loved ones are in the hospital*, make cancer patients and survivors feel beautiful**, and feed the hungry, my boundless appreciation goes out to you.

The kindnesses provided to those who struggle with mental*** and physical health are beyond anything understood by those unaware of their illnesses. How many people carry invisible burdens and struggle in private? Whatever small token we can give, although it is a thimble-full in an ocean of despair, tips the balance in the world. I cannot laugh at someone else’s pain or dismiss the heartache that guides their days.

If you are still here with me, Dear Reader, I suspect that you cannot as well. It is my hope that we can help to repair our world and remind others that we are not separate, nor merely observers, but meant to reach out, support, guide, aid, and empathize in an effort to heal others, and ourselves, on our daily paths.

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Thank you so much for stopping by. It means more than you know.
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*if you want to see the incredible work of the Fisher House, look at http://www.fisherhouse.org
**if you want to see more about bringing hope and beauty to Cancer patients, look at http://lookgoodfeelbetter.org
***to understand more about the millions of people struggling with mental illness look at http://www.nami.org

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