I am a sucker for famous quotes. And one of my favorites comes from Ghandi who said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I take that to mean … quit whining about what is wrong and go do what you wish others would.
I once was angry and walked around with a chip on my shoulder. Not all the time, but I could be mean and spiteful thinking the world owed me something. I would not treat everyone equally, and I certainly was not thoughtful. We all have a little bit of that anger in us, but for some reason it seemed accentuated in me. I had a short fuse.
I left that person behind years ago, thank goodness. Though vestiges of her still remain and roar when I am fearful, overwhelmed, or tired. But I try to be that change I want to see in the world; to be a kinder, softer, gentler person. At times it comes easier than others.
The ones who most clearly see that struggle are my family: Joe and my boys. When I am rested, it’s so much easier to have patience with Fearless doing cartwheels down the supermarket aisle toppling over cans in the process. He has a lot energy and I need to help him release it … in a more productive way. When my fears are at bay, it’s so much easier to have empathy for Dreamer who whines about one thing or another. Because I am not worried about something else, I can be more patient and see through the whining to find out what he is actually trying to tell me. When I am feeling accomplished regarding my to-do list, it is so much easier to tell Joe “don’t worry, I’ll go to the store at 10:00pm because we need milk for the morning.”
But life, in that blissful state, is rare. And more often than not I am battling something between my ears. Yet my boys are watching me.
Once I heard Dreamer yell at his brother. “FINE! You can have it. Are you happy with yourself now? Are you?”
It was a slap in the face. That was me talking when I am fed up. Dreamer was mimicking me using my words, and my frustrated intonation against his brother.
It sounded mean. It sounded like something I wouldn’t want to tell him again.
Yet within the same breath, I hear Dreamer being extraordinarily kind to his brother. One morning we were running late to school (I know, that’s a shocker!) and Fearless forgot his lunchbox at home. He doesn’t like the cafeteria food and began to cry. We live half an hour away and I couldn’t go home to get it for him. Without my asking, Dreamer got his lunchbox and gave it to his brother.
And yesterday I found this picture on my phone:
We had a practice with Kerry, my quadriplegic friend who I will be pulling at the South Beach Triathlon on April 6 as part of our ThumbsUp project. For the swim, I tie a kayak around my waist and pull her like this:
I must have been busy doing something else, when he went out. He has been watching closely this process with Kerry, and has grown a special relationship with her. He is the one that rushes to greet her when she arrives for practice, helps inflate the kayak, and pull her carrier through the sand to the beach (not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination). He also pushed her across the finish line of the Carnaval 5k, asks to take her for a “ride” around the pool, and generally wants to be around anytime we do something with her. He shows love and compassion.
These actions show me that though I have many faults and struggles, I am showing my boys that you can overcome them. I am not all bad. No one is. If we were “bad” or “good” life would be quite simple. We could X out all the “bad people” from our lives. But we are complex, and a constant work in progress. And I go back to Ghandi’s quote: “be the change you want to see in the world.”
If I want to my children to be healthy, compassionate, people who treat others with dignity and respect – I have to be that person first. If I apologize when I lose my patience, am firm when teaching a lesson, and treat others the way I would like to be treated there is a good chance they will grow to be just that. Dreamer is showing me that it is possible.
And if I need to continue reading quotes to stay on the right path … let it be ones like this: