There are multiple facets to every story, so I don’t normally overreact to things in the news. Smart kids with clocks (bombs), or sexual harassment at schools by students or employees – while I am disturbed by the general ideas trying to be communicated by the media, every story is well, complicated. Don’t misunderstand, I do have strong feelings about such things – but it’s just hard to honestly comment on something when you don’t know every single detail involved.
But all of these stories scare me. Not because I wake up most mornings to increasingly hot weather and a suspiciously large looking hand basket next to me, but because I’m afraid most of us have forgotten how to deal. Shit’s hot? Deal. You’re having a bad day? Deal. Neighbor kid is a little annoying? Deal. Your own kid is a lot annoying? Deal. Life seems almost too good for us in this Valley, that the mere hint of inconvenience or discomfort or dissatisfaction is grounds for therapy or some kind of third party intervention. And I’m not being accusatory, I too find myself falling into to this Shangri-La or Nothing mentality that seems to be growing around these parts. I’m wondering if this former Valley of Heart’s Delight is suffering from hearts that don’t know how to be delighted anymore. Or at least we don’t know how to deal when, as life would have it, some bad shit happens to us every once in awhile. We’ve lost perspective. We’ve lost scale. And it’s thrown me for a loop. I’m totally disoriented.
You know things start to get weird when you have to make up new words. Like microaggression, for example. It seems to me, the word itself suggests the solution: stuff so small you shouldn’t get worked up about them. I’m sure that statement is a microaggression to somebody. And I could probably accuse that person of microagression. And so on and so forth. It’s bewildering. Luckily there are smarter people than me studying and writing about such things. I like this solution to a microaggression, ” ‘Don’t be an asshole!’ Now buy me a drink! <smiley face>”
But there are some real problems out there.
<yet to be developed sarcasm font>You know, like property values!</yet to be developed sarcasm font>
The older I get, the more I just want to write letters of gratitude to every single one of my family members, neighbors, coaches, teachers, pastors, music teachers, (ex) friends, [Oh God!] ex-girlfriends – practically everyone I’ve encountered on this planet who looked the other way, didn’t call the police, didn’t kick me off the team or out of school, didn’t sue my parents, or didn’t take me out one way or another. Because I was (am?) a complete shit, according to what kids are getting into trouble for these days. Based on what the current level of acceptance of children’s behavior is, I was absolutely no good. But my village saw me through it. And you know what, I saw them through it as well. (So write me letters, too MFs!) You see, everyone had issues – there was the neighborhood pedophile, the violent gangsters, the druggies and drug dealers, the over-the-top religious zealots, the too-friendly stay at home moms, the kids with daddy issues, the kids with mommy issues, and the kids with issues that didn’t have labels then but have labels now. For those kids and adults who needed extra help, we looked out for each other. Those who occasionally chose to do the wrong things were met with very effective disapproving looks (for minor infractions) and actions (for the bigger infractions). But we kept those in the village, trying to balance some sense of justice and order, with forgiveness and understanding. And you know what? Most of us turned out okay. All we needed was time and a chance or two. And the ones who didn’t turn out okay didn’t turn out okay. That’s life, but they didn’t stop others from turning out okay. In fact, maybe they gave the village a chance to learn about charity and compassion and gratitude and perspective.
So while I don’t know all the facts about this case in my current city, it makes me sad. A family was essentially forced out of their home and sued for loss of property value because of their child who,
had entered a neighbor’s garage, had taken a neighbor’s banana, had sought out neighbors’ sweets, had kicked a car (no damage), had tossed some objects over a fence, had pulled a child’s hair and had on occasion kicked at people (no injuries), and had tossed a bicycle helmet…
…had struck a baby with his hand, spit at and tried to ride his bicycle into neighbors, and repeatedly sat on a neighbor’s cat.
The child is autistic, but does that even matter? My children have done all of the above. Your children have done that stuff, or will soon enough. Your future children and their children will do such things. At least I hope they will. Because that’s kind of what kids do, all kids. They have to learn what right and wrong is, not be told what right and wrong is. And for special needs children who need a little more support, we should be understanding enough to either actively help, or at least learn to deal in your own way. Not throw them in jail, or sue, or kick their families out of the neighborhood. I’m not sure when we forgot the concept of the village, but we have to relearn real soon. And the first lesson is to learn that the real value of a community is reflected in how much they care for one another, and not what Trulia or Zillow says it is.