I know I said I was going to visit the existential theme of Responsibility next, but I have been motivated to write on a different topic. I will write plenty on responsibility, believe me. Moving along….
I was reading a book that my wife took out of the library the other day called Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, by Zoe Weil. I know, my posts are starting to have a theme of starting off with some passage of a book or some idea from a book. It’s a good place to start – someone else’s ideas that is. I was just sitting with my 2-year-old daughter as she was in her bath this evening, and picked up that book to glance around. I ended up reading a story the author told about a boy with mental and physical disabilities who wanted to play baseball with a team. Up until that point his father was protecting him from embarrassment and only played ball with him in their back yard together. One day the father came home and began to play ball with his boy and the boy just stood there with his head down. His father asked what was wrong and the boy said, “I want to play on a team daddy.” The father realized he had to take a risk and took his son to the local baseball park. There was a game going on with the boy’s peers and one of the coaches allowed the boy to bat for their team. The pitcher of the other team, not knowing the boy, realized his disabilities and walked closer to offer slower, under hand pitches, and after the boy finally hit one that did not go very far, they allowed him to run all the bases and score a run. The boy was just ecstatic!
The point is that we can raise children to be like that pitcher and the rest of his team. What stands out to me is why do we have such a hard time being this humane with one another in everyday life? We are so mean, cold, and cruel to one another. To be honest, I would normally read that story and feel manipulated to “feel compassionate”, but for some reason it struck me this time as a phenomenon that does not occur enough in our lives as humans. Instead we get angry driving, we react to coworkers in negative ways, we complain about our loved ones, and we assume others will hurt us. Many of us have experienced moments of compassion at some point in our lives but it happens much less than moments such as the story above. What if our world could bottle up this type of understanding, compassion, and love, and spread it around? Even writing about this feels overly sentimental and my “realistic” side says, “oh cmon, that’s not going to happen.” Why not? Why do we have to live with so much negativity, anger, and divisiveness?
Addiction brings about the entire continuum of compassion, or lack thereof. Many humans in addiction find community, belonging, and friendship in other “users”. They take care of each other in more humane ways than the “together-folk”. We judge what we don’t know and feel uncomfortable with, and this happens quite a bit toward a community (addicts) that craves connection, love, and humanity. Granted, substance abusers can also live on the other side of this continuum and hurt others, steal, abuse, and neglect those they love. But working in addictions brings this need to life like no other. Working in a treatment center brings this to life as well. Sometimes I watch clients be so gracious and helpful to one another, or hear stories of the like, that re-establish my belief in the goodness of human beings. One of my hopes is that we can facilitate this type of compassion in our center and program that wakes up and enlightens our staff and clients to remember our deepest human need: connection.
As people, can we not push through our own bullshit, our own past hurts, our own projections, and find ways to connect with one another? We can, but ultimately it is one scary endeavor for many. If we truly connect and love, this requires transparency and vulnerability, which could end up in us being hurt. Most humans, addicts or not, have been hurt by other humans, whether it was in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. More times than not, it has been deep hurt. This makes it quite difficult to allow one’s self to connect deeply to another, and yet this is one of the very things that helps us heal. Group therapy is very healing for our clients who find themselves sharing with strangers more intimate details than they ever have before? Why is this? Because we all crave closeness, intimacy, and authenticity, and once we see it we are willing to risk. There is nothing more powerful than numbers and many times there is nothing more healing and powerful than a connected and transparent group of humans sharing from their hearts their deepest hurts and regrets. This, in turn, brings out the raw humane compassion that occurred in the story at the beginning of this writing, and something I hope for in the relationships I find myself in, and the world at large. A man can dream.