“The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, “Love each other or perish.'” – Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Once, there was girl. She was three; timid and shy.
She loved playing by herself in the little corners of the house. She especially loved talking to her stuffed toys and taking care of them as if they were real animals. When her parents made her talk to the adults, she would cower away and beg her sister for help with pleading eyes. They laughed at her silliness while she cried out of fear.
Then she turned seven.
“No more of this nonsense”, said her father. He handed her the phone and asked her to wish her cousin happy birthday. Her cousin was an adult. She cried like she was about to face death. So he changed his method, he asked her to join the choir. She started making friends.
Then she turned eleven.
She was in a lot of school organisations and getting used to the fact that she had to talk to adults. She met some very kind adults in school, others, not so. There was a slight boost in confidence as she ran the tracks and won a lot of honour and pride for her house, was chosen to act in many lead roles on stage by her teachers, performed on stage as a xylophonist, and was selected to take on many leadership roles as monitor and prefect. She even told her first joke to her best friend – one that wasn’t from a joke book.
Then she was fifteen.
She had many friends that were actual living things. She was active in school spirit, doing well in her academics, taking on leadership positions and most of all, having the time of her life. She was funny and her peers laughed at her craziness. She would even joke with her teachers and was bitchy to some of them for they deserved it. Her after-school activities comprised mainly of crazy ideas with her group of friends and executing them. She never wanted this feeling to end and she thought these friendships would never end. They gave her the confidence to be silly without caring about the judgement of anyone. From that timid three year-old-girl, she was now a hyper fifteen year old teen.
Then she was nineteen.
Her high school days long gone. The friends she had thought would be there forever – no longer remained in contact. Her confidence plummeted. From taking on leadership roles and performances on stage, she turned every single one of them down. She’d try to be silly around some of her peers – they didn’t find her funny. Funny was not what she known for; academically smart was what people labeled her. But she wasn’t as academically smart as they thought, she just buried herself in her studies because that was all she knew.
Then she was twenty-four.
Now, a working adult. She’d go to work, do her job. If people joked with her, she’d joke back. Unlike her three year old self, she was able to joke when she felt comfortable; like her three year old self, she liked being alone. Her colleagues would hang out on Friday nights and weekends. They would even joke with each other during office hours. She yearned to find a friend in the workplace that she could share that level of friendship with. There were moments she wanted to be silly or crazy – moments she found funny. She held back. “Does she think she’s funny?” “Let’s just laugh at her silliness for pity’s sake” She would think these thoughts to herself.
“Would you like to have dinner with us?” they’d ask.
“No thank you, I have dinner at home.” she’d reply.
She would see photos of them hanging out at parties and she’d feel happy for them but deep down, she felt a sadness that she didn’t belong here, or anywhere else. So she remained the quiet girl she was born to be, except she had the potential to be inviting and sociable; she was just afraid to try again for anybody.
“The problem, Mitch, is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own.
“But believe me, when you are dying, you see it as true. We all have the same beginning – birth – and we all have the same end – death. So how different can we be?
“Invest in human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.” – Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.