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The Courage to be Kind

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life has been keeping me busy and I have some happy news to share, but first I want to address some significant concerns that have been on my mind lately. Issues that were relevant to an experience I had this past Sunday at a coffee shop.

It would have been any other Sunday meeting a friend for coffee and a movie but in this instance a fellow patron approached our table to pay me a lovely compliment on my colorful attire. She said I was the second brightest object she had beheld all day, besides the cardinal outside her window earlier. It was both kind and courageous of her to do so. Particularly coming from a trans-woman.

In a brief period of time we ended up discussing of a variety of random topics. She was wonderfully creative with a flair for beautiful spontaneous poetry. Despite this, I had the sense that people did not often respond to her with kindness and appreciation. She seemed very isolated so I was at least grateful I could help show her for a moment she was not alone in her needs to be understood and accepted by others for who she was.

My concerns over how others possibly treat her actually stem from a consideration for the ridicule and harassment shown to those of a certain weight. While people on both sides of the scale can present evidence of acts of discrimination made against them, I feel the behaviors shown to those on the heavier end of the scale is worse than at the lighter side.

As someone who went from a size 22 to size 2 I am perhaps partially qualified to understand both sides of the argument. But at the same time I have struggled to recall instances of direct harassment when I was a large size 22. I wasn't bullied for my weight, people didn't mentioned it much at all to me. They didn't exhibit cruelty to my face, call me names, or mock me for my lifestyle choices. In fact I didn't really seem to experience much of the stereotyped vitriol at all, at least not externally. Internally was a difference matter.

Yet when I achieved a smaller body size there was a noticeable difference in the behavior directed my way. I feel that I've been able now to better pinpoint that imbalance between size 22 and size 2. In doing so I can definitely confirm that weight discrimination is worse towards larger sizes.

As a thin person, I get offered help more often, people are more apt to smile at me, strangers are even more likely to begin random conversations with me or volunteer information.

The difference is they exhibit a greater degree of kindness towards me now. The difference is that they are more likely to acknowledge my presence with hospitality. I remain surprised when others show me kindness because I have been trained as holdover when I was obese to not expect it.

Society teaches us not to harass or bully but it also teaches us to award kindness on the basis of appearance. For those who are not deemed young or thin or attractive enough, they are not considered worthy enough of basic kindnesses and courtesies. We are taught to ignore the parts of life that are not "attractive" enough, even when they are people. Because of appearance alone, they are not worthy of a simple acknowledgement of their presence.

Direct discrimination is hard to bear but living without acknowledgement and common courtesies, I think that's the worse fate.

I have been seeking, inspired by my mother, how I might be able to show others a greater degree of honest kindness even before I fully understood this act of erasure on the part of society. The affirmation to love every person--and I repeat. Love. Every. Person. That's a huge aid in continuing my journey, yet the followthrough remains something that I struggle with. I have lacked the courage to fully commit.

This past Sunday morning a brave woman who faces a degree of discrimination on a daily basis greater than I could ever understand, who lost her job due to discrimination, she put herself out there. She came up to us to share a feeling of kindness, even at the risk that we might not be receptive in return. Her courage inspires me to fight against the willing disregard society teaches us and perpetuates.

I might have been dressed bright but she was truly bright in spirit and in kindness.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
GOLFGMA 6/7/2013 9:22PM

    We probably all discriminate without realizing it. I have noticed that the younger generation have no respect for the older folk no matter what size we are. It seems we are just in the way. I can definitely feel the difference in attitudes from when I was younger, working, and in more social circles. I try not to let it bother me, however, for I have many friends of my own age to interact with and to myself I realize these youngsters are gonna grow old and probably be treated the same way they treated others. This is the cycle of life.

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ROCKMAN6797 3/15/2013 8:56AM

    What a wonderful sentiment. It sounds like you were in the right place at the right time.
Thank you for sharing!

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BETHSWORLD 3/14/2013 10:15AM

    I've been there also! My biggest size was also a 22...I am a 12 now (Wish I was a 2 LOL)...but I agree, I do see the change in how people treat me. I don't know if I just seem more approachable since I am a little smaller or it's people feel more comfortable talking to me...or if it's one in the same.

But this was a great post and thanks so much for your great encounter! So rare to hear great stories like this!


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KARENLEIGH32 3/13/2013 5:21PM

    So good, so true! We could all stop & re-read this!

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CUBKATIE 3/13/2013 11:36AM

    Thanks for your post. I truly enjoyed reading it.

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TORIAMAE 3/13/2013 11:35AM

    Great story and great example. Sadly, common courtesy is anything but common and something most people have a hard time extending when they feel threatened or uncomfortable. Too often, we feel threatened and uncomfortable with people we judge as different from us. This becomes magnified in the case of obese people by a desire to not identify with them, to differentiate from what you fear becoming.

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AMANDA_NY 3/13/2013 9:42AM

  Thanks for your post! I would add that the way adults treat other adults is an example for how children will treat each other, so it's especially important to show lovingkindness to each other when kids are around. I have seen some children be especially cruel to people who are overweight.

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    Love this post. And I completely agree. Once before I went from a size 18ish to a size 8, and the difference in the way I was treated was surprising.
"As a thin person, I get offered help more often, people are more apt to smile at me, strangers are even more likely to begin random conversations with me or volunteer information.

The difference is they exhibit a greater degree of kindness towards me now. The difference is that they are more likely to acknowledge my presence with hospitality. I remain surprised when others show me kindness because I have been trained as holdover when I was obese to not expect it. "

I am also finding this now, as well. I figure it will only get 'worse' as I lose more weight.

This may be one of my biggest struggles, besides maintaining/losing the weight.

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BOOKWORM27S 3/13/2013 9:28AM

    I always love your blogs....

I notice an extreme difference in how I'm treated now as a size 2. Mostly by men, who run to open doors for me and pay for my coffee. I get more dirty looks and rude treatment from obese women. I so often find myself trying to "make-up" for being skinny now. I almost feel like I have to aplogize for NOT being a size 26/28 anymore. In a world of morbid obesity, I find more dirty looks now, than I ever did when I was one of the obese.

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ELLIE381 3/13/2013 9:14AM

    This is a wonderful post. It makes me think of how many more things I could be doing.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I do appreciate reading them all. emoticon

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KANOE10 3/13/2013 8:03AM

    That was a wonderful blog. Everyone deserves kindness. I am glad that you and your friend connected with her in the coffee shop. I agree with you about being treated kinder at a lower weight. I have noticed this also. however, I have also experienced the overt unkind remarks at being overweight.

Thanks for sharing a positive compassionate story and reflection,

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TINAJANE76 3/13/2013 7:53AM

    This is a great story with such a positive message that we can all benefit from. Thanks so much for sharing your insight and experience with us.

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CELIAMINER 3/13/2013 7:14AM

    What a beautiful blog! I know the struggle to Love. Every. Person. Thank you for reminding me that that's what true compassion means.

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DEVINSHIRE1 3/13/2013 4:22AM

    Fabulous post! I hope this doesn't sound weird because I don't even know you, but I'm very proud of you. You've got a great attitude and people are obviously drawn to that (not to mention the bright colors!).

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