The journey begins, each one with distinctive roles laid out by nature and society. Each has the opportunity to follow the plans made as a family and as individuals. Sometimes the best of plans lay fallow when nourishment is denied, and so it is when nature takes its own turn to alter our plan.
I have shared the joy and the anguish of parents who have been pleasured or disappointed after the culmination of years they have invested in the lives of their children. There are times many have felt the effort was not worth it. Then again, pride in one’s creation most times is a self-reflection.
Look around you, and is quite visible as share your experience with others with regard to children. We are anxious to tell all the great stories of their achievements. Tom has earned his doctorate in anthropology. Mary is a bio-chemist and is working to find the cure for cancer. John is a fireman and a hero in the community. Jane is a homemaker, and Joe a social worker. Each one of them has a place in society and is respected for their ability to contribute to the well being of the family and the world around them.
These are the things we talk about and can relate. Stop and think how may parents do not speak out loud the things about their children in which they are not comfortable. I have known fathers who have been alienated from their sons. They are embarrassed and disappointed because of their son’s sexual orientation. No one would choose this direction; it chooses you. It is a long lonely road with pitfalls no different than heterosexuals experience in finding love, companionship and understanding. Mothers also deny the situation. It is just too much to comprehend and accept, and acceptance is so needed.
Do we ever have the opportunity to understand the pain of a parent’s disappointment? Most times it is not spoken. The children have deviated from the norm of society. These very children who were cherished and held so close before are now seemingly denied. Those who loved them as children, often seeing the signs that were apparent, deny them. They are denied the support and security of being validated as good human beings. They are judged by their deviation from what is considered the norm.
Do they not work for a living or contribute to the betterment of mankind in so many ways? They are in our schools, our hospitals, our government and our places of worship. Can we also deny what is sometimes so obvious? We are all different and unique as human creations.
A Methodist church has a motto, “Open Doors, Open Hearts and Open Minds.” It would be wonderful if everyone could adopt this phrase and live by it. So many people are left out and not embraced because they are different.
Today, we are more enlightened then ever. We now realize disabled children may look different, but they have a common denominator with all other children. They have feelings and need to be nurtured, loved and encouraged to accomplish and grow to whatever their potential might be.
We now know the ramifications of living a long life. It brings to some of us periods of ill health, loneliness and alienation. Look around and see the discarded and forgotten seniors warehoused in our nursing homes. Each of us faces being cut off from others at one time or another. We do know the feeling when it happens to us.
When people begin to embrace us we are encouraged and tend to reach out to others in turn. This seems to be evident when people are facing crisis and the positive reinforcement they receive tends to help them get through the most difficult times.
Can we hope to accept, embrace and love those who are different from us? Can we really open our minds, our hearts and our doors so we may live together in understanding and with light and peace in the time we share together? I pray that it begins with me, and others will follow.
Linda Alessi, of Lebanon, is a regular contributing columnist. She writes about life in the golden years.