There is a story about a woman who walks many miles with her overweight son to see Mahatma Gandhi. When she gets there she begs, “Please tell my son to stop eating sugar.” Gandhi is said to have asked her to return the following week. The next week she walked the entire day again with her son to meet him. This time Gandhi looked at the boy and immediately said, “Do as your mother says and stop eating sugar.” The woman, confused and a bit angry after all the walking asked, “Why didn’t you just say that last week? We’ve walked for hours to see you.” Gandhi replied, “First I had to give it up myself.”
This is a perfect example of teaching through experience. I am always surprised at how people judge (or give advice) on my parenting skills when they have no children. I am always surprised at others who give marriage advice when they’ve never been married. Oh, and the ones who know “exactly” how it feels to mourn or grieve a love one when they haven’t gone through the process. How can anyone teach without experiencing those things themselves?
I will not mingle or entertain those things I don’t know anything about. I have little knowledge of politics therefore I don’t enter into conversations on the subject. I know little about organized religions except for the ones I studied in school. I can’t sit and discuss beliefs with someone from another background without having experienced what they’ve experienced. I can’t tell a surgeon how he needs to mend a heart. I haven’t the slightest clue on a million and one things. I am learning to keep my mouth shut because I don’t appreciate when others criticize my life without walking my path.
Humanity falls short when it comes to holding compassion. We immediately allow the ego to judge and scrutinize even without experiencing those issues. I love this story of Gandhi and the woman. It shows how we can detach from any situation and try to impart ourselves in order to be empathetic. Just because I don’t live in a third world country doesn’t mean I can’t imagine how those who go without food feel. But, I have no clue how “exactly” it feels to be without food. I have no idea, unless I experience it myself, how the soul feels when it is depleted from nutrition. The closest I came to this was when my daughter arrived from Romania and she was mal-nourished. She would hide food under the bed. She would sit with her meal and chew everything once and put it back on the plate so no one would take it from her. Then she would take her time to go around the plate and finally enjoy the meal. Will I ever know what she experienced in an orphanage? No clue. I can only learn from what I witnessed.
I see homeless people in large cities all the time. I feel a sense of helplessness for them. I am drawn to them in ways I can’t even explain. I have no idea what it is to live in the streets, in the cold, in the heat and in the mercy of others. Whenever I hear people say, “They need to get up their lazy asses and get jobs!” I cringe. How can you be so ignorant? Unless you have lived that life you can’t possibly know the struggles, obstacles, and mental issues. Go homeless for a week and then, perhaps, you can give advice (an opinion) on the subject.
We as a whole in this world need to learn to tolerate without judgment. We need to allow the ego to fall to the side in order to help others without discriminating. Whether it is for the homeless, the illegal immigrant, the single mother, the homosexual, the drug addict, the HIV patient, etc! If you haven’t experienced their life please be kind enough to send love, prayers and allow your ego to take a backseat. Never diminish one struggle over another. Never judge what you haven’t undergone. The harshness of opinions, criticism, and intolerance seems to cause more than just wars. It is depleting our world from the faith in humanity. Unless you walked the talk…please sit down and quiet the mouth. As I always tell my children when they try to argue a point they know nothing about, “But, but, but, Mom….” I say, “The only but is the one you need to sit on and be quiet until you have experienced it yourself.”
We are one. We are connected in this giant web of humanness. Learn from others but don’t allow your preconceptions determine the person they are, can be, or should become. You never know where life can take you. Karma has a way of teaching powerful lessons when we carry a closed mind and heart. One thing I know for sure is that kindness and compassion are free. Character is built on integrity and the willingness to move past judgment and into the service of others.