Friday, December 30, 2011

Rush to judgments

I went to Austin over Christmas to escape my problems, but the irony is that we really can't escape our problems--not really. Sometimes, we can only be reminded that all human beings experience pain and loss. No individual is crying alone. We all shed tears.
As a teacher, I'm far from wealthy, and I always pursue the better position while simultaneously pursuing my dream of becoming a well-respected author. At times, my lack of funds depresses me, but I'm quickly reminded that other people have suffered more profoundly than have I. My mother is the reason for my balance, I think. She always reminded me that I wasn't hungry and that I was educated. Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s and formed my mother in positive ways. She remembered poverty and never advanced as far in her education as she could have because she had to work. Education had been her dream for me, her only daughter, and I pursued three degrees--often begrudgingly. My mother often reminded me about her life as a young woman, working in a cracker factory in her teens (she'd hate that I wrote this) and then advancing as a prized employee in Reiner's Jewelry Store. Her life was never easy. All of her siblings died before she did. Three of her brothers were young men when Fate took them. Three of them were in World War II, and their lives inspired me to write Love at War, on and Amazon. Through every trial, my mother maintained her buoyancy and pride. She also had a giving spirit and never judged others. I can only hope I've followed her example.
As a resident of New Orleans, I have encountered the homeless and dispossessed. While I was in Austin, I saw people in the same condition. It is easy for us to judge these less fortunate people, labeling them as lazy or stupid. Of course, some homeless people are chronically unemployed, but many are simply "down on their luck." Some suffer from addictions, and still others are victims of mental illness. There but for the grace of God go I.
Those persons who simply need temporary help often find employment and go on with their lives; some, of course, will die as victims. Again, it's easy for us to judge, but judge we do. I teach at a school that requires service to the community, but in the past, the administration has discouraged service to the people needing it the most. Heaven forbid the students see people with rotten teeth, people who mumble or stare, and people who aren't quite clean. Consequently, most service is limited to assisting the middle class, people who are the less needy. As a result, the students too often harbor prejudicial attitudes toward needy people--even when they seek to help them.
The students are not the only ones harboring condescending attitudes. I know of one well-heeled woman who told her classroom of equally well-heeled students that she was leaving the school to teach little "African babies." Sweet God, has she watched Ingrid Bergman in Murder on the Orient Express once too often? The children she would be teaching were primarily "African-American," not "African." How condescending could she be? Does she really hope to be successful teaching children she holds in such contempt? Her comments made me wonder if I've ever sounded so intolerant or clueless. This is the season for resolutions, and I promise that I will try my best not to judge others. Any tragedy can result in our being homeless or mentally unstable. There but for the grace of God. . .