August 6, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Every life is ‘fragile’ and must be handled with care

Patti LambLater this month, my son, Henry, heads off to full-day kindergarten to begin his academic career.

Before I let him go, I would like to stamp something on his forehead—just so the world knows. It would be a simple message contained within seven letters and applied in permanent bright-red ink: “FRAGILE.”

The “handle with care” part would be implied.

It is scary to send children out into this callous world.

I worry about him making friends, progress and mistakes.

In a nutshell, a “fragile” stamp would serve as a handy reminder to my son’s peers of the following:

  • Let’s not be judgmental. This is an important time in our growth and development, and any pre-judging might deter us from following a gift or talent that we should nurture.
  • We all have our own unique issues. They are called by different names, but we have all got struggles. There is no one among us without delicate intricacies.
  • We are going to make mistakes. That is part of learning and growing. When mistakes happen, we need to forgive each other, and ourselves, and move on.
  • We are works in progress, wonders unfolding. We are blossoming toward God with each new day. Let’s give each other a chance—no, many chances.

The way that I see it, all of this information could be neatly conveyed in the form of a “fragile” stamp in the center of each person’s forehead.

I am certain the world would be a much gentler place if we treated each other as if we were branded with this warning.

This cautionary impression would remind us that there resides in each of us a place of vulnerability which requires the gentlest of care. We are created in the image and likeness of God. And we are sacred.

This is difficult to remember as adults in the midst of bustling workdays full of sales goals and deadlines, especially when there are particular personalities present that do not agree on how to meet those critical benchmarks.

I’m learning that difficult people are often that way because someone has hurt them. Although these people’s actions and attitudes make us want to avoid or ignore them, the reality is that these people need our love the most of all.

A line from God Calling puts it well: “Seek to understand others, and you cannot help but love them.”

Life is bumpy. Some of us adapt, resolve to toughen up and learn to wear poker faces. We pretend to emerge from life’s dips unscathed. We pretend to be unflappable. We deny that we are fragile.

But fragile isn’t bad. It’s a condition of being human.

The woman in line behind you at the grocery store might have just been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—Lou Gehrig’s disease. Perhaps the man next to you in traffic lost his job. The woman in front of you at the license branch could be grieving after a miscarriage.

The preceding three sentences are real circumstances that have happened to people that I know in the past month. We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes in other people’s worlds.

Each day, we are entrusted with others’ lives at home, school or work. It is certainly not easy to give others the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge their fragility.

But we must. The person next to you is the son or daughter of some concerned parent out there who is praying that you treat his or her child with love.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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