Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No One is an Island

My heart is heavy tonight as I ponder many things. This blog post has been brewing inside of me for some time but I havn't known exactly what I was trying to say. I'm going to try tonight.

Tomorrow is the first international Ice Cream for Breakfast celebration. If you don't know what I'm talking about go here. It was conceived by Bruce Rosenberg after he found out that he had stage four metastatic melanoma. He wanted everyone to celebrate life and go on living it... whatever yesterday gave because today is what we have to work with now, and without worrying too much about tomorrow, because after all, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

This was a man who died eight days ago, surrounded in person and beyond, by people who loved him. Who were inspired by him. Who were praying every single day of the previous year that he get to continue this journey with us all longer.

As I was thinking about Bruce tonight, and what I did and did not know about him, and all of the people all over the world who rallied around him and his wife and their beautiful girls, I realized that it was likely that someone didn't like Bruce. It seems almost inconceivable to me, for this was a man of formidable character, and yet, I know life being what it is that someone must not have seen him like we did. It got me thinking a lot about myself, and the people I love, and how people see other people.

As I pondered these things I realized that we tend to view people in vacuums. Not as persons who are walking around with a million different life experiences that may or may not be the same as our own, but rather as mirrors of our own reality, who either measure up or do not to our own standards. For those who don't some of us are open minded enough to find out why, but even with that we judge those reasons against our own set of beliefs, morals, and life experiences and decide whether or not that person is worthy of our friendship, our love, our compassion even.

I've been told I'm amazing. That I am so strong. I've had many many wonderful things said about me, and I do not doubt that those people who said them believed them. Heck, I'm not even saying they were wrong. But really if you measure me just by what I have accomplished than depending on what period you look at you would see very different people. If you look at me as the sum total of all of my life experiences, right now, you'll come up with an assessment of me that will vary depending on your own outlook and life experiences.

Not a single one of us exists in a vacuum, or as an island. Every single one of us has made mistakes, and been forgiven by someone. Likely by many someones. No one becomes great without someone else whispering words or actions of encouragement to get us there. It could be simple or it could be large, but in the end, those of us who have no one else in the world to smile at us, encourage us, love us, whither and die.

Why does all of this matter? It matters because life matters. Because as I sit here looking at my self and my own relationships I realize that by looking at others through who I wanted them to be rather than who they are, I set myself up for disappointment, and I set our relationship up for failure. Whether it was a Mom I met at the playground with her kids, a friend, a family member, or a stranger on the street, I've fallen short of loving people where they are. Not always, but far too many times.

I am who I am because of the people who loved me. Who smiled at me on the street when I was having a bad day. Who had a friendly word when I ordered my coffee every morning. Who joked with me as they held the crosswalk sign to help me cross the street. Who held my hair as a puked and my hand as I cried. I am who I am because of those people far more than I am because of those who judged me harshly, spat cruel words or unkind stares at me, used me and abused me. Those actions against me broke me down and shaped me, no doubt, but without the uplifting experiences in my life I guarantee I wouldn't be alive right now.

Life matters. Loving isn't easy but it's powerful. We all judge, but just as it is important to check our Priviledge not so we can make it go away (we can't) but so that we can live our lives with it in mind, it is also important to remember that every person who we meet and judge has a different sum total of their life experiences. That doesn't make them wrong, or bad, just different. And as much as we all tote the line of "difference being good" we don't embrace it in many ways, especially I've noticed in how we try and make others fit our own worldview.

I've seen the other side. I watched my three year old befriend an unshaven, unwashed man with a long ponytail in the grocery store the other day. While I was busy judging, he was busy chatting with the man about Ice Cream and Batman. When we left he told me "That man is my friend Mama. That man had sparkly eyes and he was really nice. Can he come to our house sometime do you think Mama?" That man, who I was busy judging for life experiences that may or may not have been his choice, was radiating a common compassion and human love for my boy, and he saw it, and shined it right back. When I thought about the man some more I realized how many different possibilities there could have been for why he acted why he acted, and how quickly I was willing to dismiss them all as unimportant.

I'm guilty of it not only with strangers but with the people I love the most. The unbelievable loss I've felt this past year has made me rethink and reexamine many areas of my life and relationships are among the most important. To those who read this I offer an apology if I've judged you out of hand. I offer an explanation of only that my life experiences led me to believe what I believed was right. And I offer an open offer to try again, if you'll let me. I think that this world needs more compassion and love and less judging and closing ourselves off from each other.

Thank you Bruce for bringing an amazing network of people together from across the world. Thank you for the lessons you taught us. In your memory I'm ready to love like I've never loved before. Thank you family and friends and even strangers who have loved me to this point. Without you, well, without you I'd be withered away on an island instead of living life to its fullest.


  1. This is beautiful. Just beautiful. And oh so very very true.

  2. I often think that love...in it's purest form...knows nothing about time...or distance...or error...or forgiveness...or compassion...because when I think of my children (grand-children)...or my mother...or my siblings...or anyone whom I have chosen to love...I could not any more not love them...that is not a tap that can be turned off...rather I find a way to love them in a correct fashion that is dictated by life's circumstance...and wait patiently for the day...that they choose to accept my love in the way I dream it to be.

  3. It all makes so much sense to me, Alison, and you said it so beautifully, and your Dad's response says it all, too. Thanks for posting this. Love you. :) Nana