Today is the National Day on Writing, so I thought I’d share some words I put together while writing with my students this week.
I write because, most of the time, it’s easier for me than speaking. I can carefully consider each word and craft exactly what I want to say without having to repeat myself and without fear of being misunderstood. Writing frees my brain of the thoughts that consume so much space and energy. When I put it on paper, I can separate myself from the problem and release the pain.
When I was 19, I was having a difficult time dealing with the 10 year anniversary of my father’s death. I had so many unanswered questions, and I was angry with him for abandoning us. I wrote a letter–I assume it said everything I was thinking, but I don’t really remember. After I finished it, I sealed it in an envelope, drove to a small lake on the north side of town, and set the letter on fire, watching the feathery ashes drop into the murky water. That action released me. The anger and rage dissipated from my soul like the smoke from the scorched paper. Burning the letter didn’t erase all of my memories and questions, but there was something symbolic about it that put me at ease and allowed me to move beyond despair. I felt lighter and liberated.
That song isn’t even in my top 100, but it made for a good title.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be kind in such a rude world.
The day started off just fine. My mom and I dropped the dogs off at doggy daycare so we could spend the day at the State Fair of Texas. I knew it would be really busy since it was the last day, so we tried to get an early start.
We parked at the Trinity Mills DART station to take the train. When we got to one of the stops downtown, a door malfunctioned, and the officers made us all get off the train and catch the next one. The cars were so full: I was pretty sure we would have to stand for the rest of the trip, but we were lucky to find seats. I watched one man offer his seat to an older man who was standing in the doorway, and I noted that small act of kindness.
We arrived at Fair Park, bought some coupons, and proceeded to stand in line after line, waiting for Fletcher’s corny dogs, cowboy corn crunch, fried jello, more coupons, and the deep fried Texas bluebonnet (my favorite of the day). We zigged and zagged our way through Creative Arts and the Embarcadero. We dodged perfume samples and pushy salesmen. When we had had enough, we began making our way back to the train, the ever-growing crowds slowing our progress as they knelt and angled for the best photo with Big Tex or stopped mid-path to check messages on their phones.
Once the train arrived, we boarded an already-full car, and I noticed at least four people who had positioned themselves in seats so that no one could occupy the empty one next to them, three of whom were young men. Not one person offered to move so that my 70-year-old mom could have a seat. We stood in the crowded doorway. At one stop, a few seats opened up, and a young boy took one of them. At another stop, more seats became available, and mom and I were finally able to sit down. Behind us was one of the young men taking up two seats. After a while, he began rapping along to the music in his headphones.
And then we finally got off the train only to be greeted by this:
I wanted to throw my keys at this truck, kick the bumpers, bend the license plate, flatten the tires… I didn’t do any of those things. I didn’t even leave a note for the jerk because if someone doesn’t care enough to park between clearly painted white lines, a harshly-worded note isn’t going to have much of an impact. I did call Carrollton PD and give them the license plate number. Then I spent the next 5 minutes maneuvering my car out of this predicament.
The last straw of the day came when we decided to go get frozen yogurt before picking up the dogs. (Because we didn’t get enough of the fair food, I guess?) In the small shop, two or three families had gathered with their children, and the noise level was almost deafening. We fixed up our dishes and decided to eat outside, but we weren’t alone for long.
Who are these people who believe social norms (and rules, in the case of the owner of the truck) do not apply to them? Have we become so self-absorbed and oblivious to our surroundings that other human beings cease to exist? Or maybe I’m the crazy one to think that social norms are normal–maybe they’re a thing of the past.
This world needs more kindness. We need people to notice and recognize and own their rudeness and adjust accordingly. Be more aware that you’re blocking a path. Pay attention to your surroundings and offer your seat to that person who looks older than you. Even if he or she refuses, your effort will be acknowledged. And for crying out loud, park your car in between the lines!