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.