When we enter this world, we’re not responsible for anything. Someone else takes care of all our needs. Someone had to or I wouldn’t be here writing this and you wouldn’t be here reading this. Someone helped us and guided us.
As a child, I learned about responsibility. My parents doled out “chores” to all of us as we grew older. We’d bitch and moan but if we didn’t pull our weight, there were consequences. Something was taken away from us or we were “punished” in some form or another. I didn’t have a perfect childhood — who does — but I learned plenty about responsibility.
I Made Mistakes — Who’s Responsible?
As a young woman, I learned that the choices I made had consequences as well. Some were right, some were wrong, but through some of the most difficult and painful times in my life, despite my mistakes, someone helped me. Even when I’d keep making the same ones over and over, someone believed in me. It was family, a friend, a stranger, but someone decided I was worth it and gave me chances to do better. They didn’t think I was worthless just because I wasn’t doing what they thought I should.
As an adult, I realize that we get caught up in perceptions and we judge others. I do it, you do it. We don’t mean to but we size up people — from their dialect, their income, their ethnicity, the way they dress, they way they move through life. Our perceptions get skewed sometimes, I think, from the way in which other lifestyles, other than the ones we’re familiar with, are represented — through the media, from politicians, leaders, teachers, religion — we filter it through what we believe in.
A Viewpoint From Someone I Don’t Know
I read an article last month in the The New York Times, “I Was a Welfare Mother,” which was the impetus for this post.
This lady went through some rough patches and yes, it had to do with some of the choices she’d made. She’d messed up but she decided she wanted to do better, for herself and for her son. Her parents were middle-class, “Great Depression children, both ex-marines…they’d always taught self-reliance.” As she said, “. . .I had grown up hearing that anyone on the dole was scum.”
She found herself in circumstances where she had to accept welfare. She went to school, worked, graduated and nearly 40 years later, she’s remarried written books and paid off her college loans. She said that she and her husband pay big chunks of taxes and have raised a hard-working son that’s does the same. She said, “My country gave me the chance to rebuild my life — paying my tax tab is the only thing it’s asked of me in return.”
I know that everyone on welfare doesn’t have this success story. And yes, I realize that it’s messed up, there’s corruption and those of us who’ve worked our entire lives, pay taxes and then witness people who don’t seem to “pull their weight” or take responsibility, receive entitlements, we wonder why that is. We begin to have an “us against them” stance.
But I don’t know all of them, but I’m certain not all abuse it. There are decent and honest people who just need help sometimes and a chance to better themselves. They’re trying to take responsibility but I also think it’s our responsibility to help.
It’s difficult not to judge sometimes, isn’t it? We’d all like to think what we would do, how we’d take responsibility for this or that. Maybe sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
Four Freedoms for Everyone
I watched CBS Sunday Morning yesterday and New York City has a new FDR Memorial that sits in the middle of the East River on Roosevelt Island. It has the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” Speech etched in an enormous stone. It is this:
Four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world should enjoy:”
Freedom of speech and expression
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
I understand that this was a different time in our history, but I still think it applies today. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a Higher Power or not, our humanness, the core of us, is kindness, understanding and helping one another. I don’t think that ever changes either, at least I hope it never does.
Teddy Roosevelt said this: Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Lincoln said this: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
We’re all alike — really. We want to live in a country where we can succeed. We want our children to live in a place that is safe. We want to be treated fairly, rewarded for our efforts. I don’t know what the solution is to all of these problems that everyone is “fighting” about and it saddens me that the division between those beliefs have become so broad.
I think it’s our responsibility to try and figure it out and stop spreading emails or information that promote hatred or separateness even when we hear the absurd — I don’t think it does any good to give that absurdity any more weight or bring it to light by saying horrible things about this person or that. A rational exchange of ideas I think is our responsibility. And it’s difficult when you feel like someone or something is threatening you, your beliefs and your lifestyle. We get passionate about those things, as we should, but maybe we should do it with more compassion.
What do you think?
The Good, There’s Always Good
I’m going to end this post on a positive note. I think that this generation — the 20 and 30 something’s have an insight that our parents and maybe those of us who are older don’t have.
They are far more accepting of other people, beliefs, cultures. I’m grateful that they are able to connect with each other and I think they’re taking responsibility for bridging the gap between left and right. I’ve always considered myself an “independent” thinker and I cannot figure out how we got here — this huge division.
Despite the dire messages I get from both sides of the political agenda, (and the negative mud-slinging ) I believe that our country will go in the direction it needs to in order to be what’s it’s always been from that sonnet written in the 1800s by Emma Lazarus, etched on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
When we do the best we can, I think everyone needs to have a chance at that golden door.
Happy Monday everyone.
* * *
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. — Dalai Lama
Thanks Brigitte — these are the kinds of musings that help to plant seeds that spread positive actions and thoughts.
Hi Sandee, thank you for your kind words. I certainly hope that it makes a difference somewhere!
“perceptions get skewed sometimes”—I think this is so often the case. I am often surprised by people’s perceptions of me, and I suppose the opposite may be true as well. We have to make sure we’re seeing the whole picture before we snap to judgment. Nice post, as always, Brigitte.
Yep and I think we’re all guilty. I am too, Carrie — surprised what people automatically assume about me. Thanks so much as always, Carrie and glad you enjoyed.
Very nicely said Brigitte, as you know, this topic is right up my alley!
Honie, yep — thought you’d appreciate — thank you.
I couldn’t agree more! Really well-written, too! I think it is important for people to get involved in our paticipatory government, but I think it’s equally important to take a few breaths to consider “How” to get involved. Be engaged, but be respectful and listen as well.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl
Hi Keenan, thanks! What a great comment and I love that Victor Frankel quote. xxoo
Thought provoking as always B. I think Americans are given the gift of voting that allows us to correct our course if needed every few years. People do get awfully fired up this time of year. I appreciate the debate but I also appreciate civility and sometimes that is hard to come by.
I don’t know about the 20 somethings these days but that is a whole different conversation! 🙂
Well put again!
Thanks, Mags. I think it’s important to be so (civil) so that we not shouting at each other which I’m don’t think solves much. Thanks for stopping by and your comment — much appreciated. xo
I agree with you, Brigitte, that there’s been a very adversarial tone to our collective viewpoint in recent years. There can be no “us” or “them”, because it’s always “we” who have the priviledge and the responsibility to make this a better world for EVERYONE! As always, my lovely friend, well said! xoM
Well said, Margarita and I agree with you. Thanks so much, friend. xo
Such true words, Brigitte. Part of my core philosophy is “Dialogue, not diatribe,” and it’s so hard for me to face all the bitter rhetoric and misguided actions I see around us. If we can’t remember our common humanity and understand the true spirit of democracy, I’m afraid we’ll implode. And with our technology, we could take the entire planet with us. I hope you’re right that a younger generation will bring some changes for the better.
J, I love your core philosophy — what a lovely way of expressing it. I don’t like it either. I’m uncomfortable with that kind of “diatribe.” I don’t mind parody and we laughing at our differences but I don’t think mean-spirited works. People have the right to freedom of expression and it’s a right that comes with responsibility, at least in my opinion. Thank you for your insight and comment.
With words such as these:
Freedom of speech and expression
Freedom of worship
Freedom from want
Freedom from fear
Nothing more I can add.. what a great post brigitte and now how can we get the naysayers on board with your train of thought?
Hi Lynne — that’s some great words, huh? And you added plenty — thank you. I don’t know the answer to your question, but I think it begins with civility. Couldn’t hurt. :).
Civility and respect.. if we all realized we are all one people perhaps the blinders would come off. I much enjoyed your post!!
Yes! Lynne, that’s it exactly. And thank you — I’m so glad you did.
I love this post. I try to remind myself that most people are doing the best with what they have. I have gotten to the point where I refuse to argue politics because no one is changing anyone’s mind. I will discuss it and I like hearing what someone from an opposing viewpoint has to say, if it’s done in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. When it becomes rhetoric or sound bytes or just plain ignorant ranting, I’m done. I prefer inclusion rather than exclusion. Thank you for your thoughtful insight – I think a lot like you think 🙂
Hi Ruta — thank you — I’m so goad you enjoyed it. I’m the same — I don’t talk about them either, it doesn’t seem as if we can do that rationally anymore and I don’t understand why. And you are very welcome, friend. Thank you for your kind and intelligent comment.
Heavy hitters on the blogosphere between you and Maggie. I love your very last line.. kindness is key. Responsibility is a huge word — as parents we work hard to instill that in our daughters and how they live their lives. there is hope for the future!(and for today)
Superb as usual– I don’t know how you guys keep churning out these amazing, intelligent and insightful posts!
Hi Audra, well thank you! I told Mags hers should be FP’d and so glad you enjoyed my post as well. You’re always so kind to me, Audra and I so appreciate that. xxoo
BRAVO, BRIGITTE!! This was excellent. Everyone seems like their set on a hair trigger lately and bringing up anything political or philosophical can get you shot. You navigated through these treacherous waters and finessed a very substantial heart felt message that has the Brigitte stamp all over it. I loved it!! Amen and Amen.
Thanks for this. It was very satisfying. xox
Hi Grippy, why thank you. I don’t understand why that is, I just don’t. I think maybe people become very passionate and before you know it, there’s a debate going on and people are talking at one another instead TO each other. Know what I mean? There’s a difference and thank you so much for showering me with all these lovely compliments, my friend. I’m so glad you liked it. xxoo
Excellent post Brigitte. I think that in addition to the four freedoms we should all celebrate the fact that we have the freedom to think. Our perceptions are sometimes skewed. As much as I hate to admit it I have been guilty of making snap judgements. We should allow ourselves the freedom of thought to alter our perceptions and approach the world with kindness and sensitivity. Really great post
Hi Judith, thank you very much. We’re all guilty of that I think! I’m so glad you enjoyed.
I love this, Brigette. I work with low income families every day and I can assure you that not everyone is abusing the system. Sometimes people just need a hand to get through difficult circumstances. Thanks for shining a spotlight on this important issue. Great monday musings, as usual. 🙂
Hi Jenn, so glad you enjoyed it and nice to hear from someone who has experience with this — thank you. I so appreciate your input and insight.
I think it’s easy to get jaded when faced with the amounts of people who, as you say, don’t take responsibility and yet still seem to have a much easier time than the rest of us. However, I often think we owe it not only to society but also to ourselves not to fall into that trap of “well they don’t care so why should I?” My mom always told me that it doesn’t matter what other people’s responses will be as long as we do our best to be kind, respectful, and be responsible for ourselves. We shouldn’t decide to be helpful to others based on what we’ll get in return but because we can and we choose to. Thanks for another thoughtful post, Brigitte. 🙂
Hi Lillian, I agree — we shouldn’t fall into that trap. We can’t lump humanity, parts of it, into categories. Thanks so much, Lillian, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
Thank you for your civil tone and for making such a good case for a rational exchange of ideas, Brigitte.
Hi Robin, thank YOU for your nice comment and so glad you enjoyed the post.
Excellent post. If only we would spend more time focusing on the things we have in common, rather than the things that differentiate us, the world would be so much better for it. ~ Kat
Hi Kat — that’s it! And we all do have things in common — human things. Thanks so much for your comment.
Brigitte, this is such a thoughtful and insightful post. You have a true gift. I really appreciate your idea of stopping the rhetoric. I am as guilty as anyone of getting fired up in a political debate, but I realize that it only further entrenches people. Maybe if we all cooled our heels a bit and employed our compassion we’d get further ahead.
Thanks for this.
Hi RG, thank you — what a nice compliment. I think everyone gets fired up — myself included, but I agree with you. It does just separate people more and then everyone starts defending why they said this or that instead of trying to listen to one another and reach an understanding. I know it’s not easy, but I think it’s worth trying! Thanks so much.
Thank you for speaking my mind – truly, on all points. I made a decision after the last election that I would not forward emails and this time I have even stayed away from Facebook, just because I don’t think reading negative posts from either the “side” that I support or the other is useful. I hope in my lifetime to see our country more united and tolerant.
Hi Cathy, you’re most welcome and thank you! I get those emails from people and I just can’t stand it. Most promote fear and all are negative. I’m with you, I hope we can accomplish that as well — more kindness, respect and tolerance.
Re: “Welfare Mom”–anytime I needed to make use of a gov’t “handout,” I had to work hard in tandem with the “freebie.” When I received an educational grant for displaced workers 20 years ago, I had to do my part and get good grades if I wanted to live up to the intention of the grant, which was to give me the best chance possible to succeed. I hustled and ended up getting a scholarship from the college to continue on to a bachelor’s degree. When I got into a state-funded training program this summer for unemployed professionals, I worked hard to get the most I could from it. Some didn’t work as hard and still struggle, but I’m beginning to see opportunities arising from my efforts. You get what you give, and if you do nothing but “get a handout” instead of “giving some effort” to improve your situation in tandem with the handout, then it will probably lead you nowhere except back on line for the next handout. [BTW, this is just one scenario I’m speaking to, and not a judgment of all people getting assistance from the gov’t.]
Hi Sue, yes I understand what you mean and agree with you. That’s what the Einstein quote and others within my post means. It’s not a “handout” always as you’ve indicated in your wonderful comment. It’s help and there are those who need that help, use it and contribute — as you did. Thank you, Sue — your input and insight is always wonderful and much appreciated. (And btw, I knew what you meant). :).
Again, so many things to comment on.
First of all, I already had the headline “I Was A Welfare Mom” ready for my next headlines (I should have used it today), and it’s not very nice. Now that I know what it’s about, I’ll feel bad when I post it. I’ll still post it though. Look for it next week or the week after.
And now that I KNOW what it’s about, it reminds me a little of my own mother. My mom was from a different generation, and her early aspirations in life were to be a mom and a homemaker. But when she found herself widowed and pregnant at 25, she knew that more would be demanded of her. When she died she was a professor at a technical college. She sacrificed a great deal for me, and did everything to make sure that, despite her income (although later in life she lived comfortably), I would have opportunities in life. It sounds hokey, but when people ask me who my hero is, it’s my mom. And although I fall vastly short of the benchmark she set, she is also the model I imitate in my own role as a parent.
the 20 and 30 something’s have an insight that our parents and maybe those of us who are older don’t have.
I can’t agree wholeheartedly with that statement. On one hand, it is true that my generation and those younger than me have a different view (by and large) of homosexuality, interracial marriage, premarital sex etc. than do the older generation (again, by and large). But intolerance for those who don’t fit this mold (say, people like my grandmother, who view homosexuality as a sin) is on the rise. Moreover, because the younger generation increasingly lacks critical thinking and listening skills, this tolerance flows not from consistent inner values, but from a societal mandate. Homosexuality may be tolerated, but other questions of personal liberty–polygamy, drug legalization, gambling, prostitution, etc. are to varying degrees not tolerated.
The current “tolerance” paradigm is a farce. It is merely a new intolerance substituted for an old one. I think the abrupt change of political mores (I watched a movie from 1981 where the term “f****t” (gay slur) was used indiscriminately. The supposedly tolerant crowd fails to realize that people who have lived the bulk of their lives feeling a certain way don’t suddenly become evil or intolerant because political mores shift.
Thought-provoking and artfully written as always!
Smak, I have a feeling yours won’t be the same as mine 😉 — and that’s okay. I know that there are plenty of “bad” cases and it’s not all roses and wine. But I do try to look for the good, as you know. There’s still many women who want to be a mother and homemaker which I put up with any other profession — one of the most difficult and undervalued. Parents do that, for the most part, I think, sacrifice for their kids. Your mother sounds like she was a wonderful woman and I think it’s great you consider her your hero. I think the same of my Mom.
By insight, I mean that each generation has their own ideals and insight into the world in which they find themselves in. I grow weary of everyone complaining about the “younger” generation and yes, they have their faults but so did the ones before them. I try very hard to find the best in each because I think maybe that’s better that bitching about what’s wrong. That’s just me. Maybe some tolerance does “flow from societal mandate,” but I don’t entirely agree with that either. We have to set some kind of setpoint as to what’s right and what’s wrong — we all know what those things are.
Your comments are very thought-provoking as well and artfully written! I may not always agree with all your viewpoints as you don’t with mine, but isn’t it nice to discuss them rationally and respectfully? Which is the point to this post.
As always, thank you so much for your insight — it’s ALWAYS welcomed and appreciated.
Beautiful post my dear.
The Dalai Lama and I share the same religion.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your week!
Thanks so much, Christy. Kindness goes a long way.
a wonderful thought-provoking post
-yes,sometimes it is hard not to judge, but I have been put in a position where I have learned not to judge because you just never know when the rug is going to be pulled out from under you and you are left having to find solutions to problems you never dreamed you would have
-kindness most certainly is the key, as is walking in shoes that you never thought you would have to wear
Thanks, Lou Ann — I try! It’s difficult to do but that whole try to walk in someone else’s shoes usually makes me think about it. Glad you enjoyed!