Friday, January 14, 2011

Bring It On Ben

"Our limited perspective, our hopes and fears become our measure of life, and when circumstances don't fit our ideas, they become our difficulties." Ben Franklin

I read this quote yesterday and read it and read it.

I know Ben (I feel I can go by his first name) was talking about how we view our own lives, but to me this quote makes me think of how I judge others' circumstances. I have ideas of how a happy life looks and when someone tells me they live their life in a different way, I assume they must not be happy. I absolutely hate this quality about myself. I hate it because I know better.

When I was about 8 years old, a friend from school invited me to her home. Her father worked in the factory of the mill that my father managed. My family lived in a relatively nice house, wall-to-wall green shag carpet, Atari set hooked up to the color tv, 2.5 bathrooms and plenty of space for each person to be in a separate room with rooms remaining. Her home was a one room trailer in which 9 people resided. I don't remember judging the conditions of her home in my 8-year old brain, just taking them in, and I was soon immersed in too much fun to ponder how vastly different her living quarters were from mine.

That day we ran around outside with my friend's 6 brothers, her father showed us how to get sap out of the trees, her mom goofed around with us in the kitchen and something that really sticks out: her father brought her mom a lily for Easter and it was lovely. When my own mother came to pick me up I remember the joy I felt at having spent a day in such a loving environment and how kindly the whole family treated me.

I am sure, nearly 30 years later, that if most adults were to visit such a home, they would probably talk about how sad it is for children to be raised in such conditions and how the parents shouldn't have had so many children when they obviously can't afford to take care of them properly. I don't doubt this family had their struggles, I KNOW they did, but they also had such an abundance of happiness that they were able to let it encompass a visitor - an 8-year old kid who was fortunate to spend the day in their company.

So I read Ben's quote as a way for me to stop looking at the circumstances of other people's lives and judging them against what I have been taught is the ideal standard. It doesn't do anybody any good to feel sorry for them or to think they must not be happy, because they have had difficulties in their life. We all have difficulties and we're all fighting that silent battle of which Plato spoke (Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle) and judging another, tsk-tsking their choices just doesn't open our eyes to the joy and splendor those people do feel. Everyone has difficulties and everyone does amazing things. My hope is to focus more on those amazing things and to judge less those difficulties.

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