Photo by me from my archive.
I have a dream.
In this dream, each person can see other people for who they are: another person. Someone special. A unique gift. No further judgement needed.
In this dream, when we see a problem arise with someone, we look at the problem, not at the person. Because we know we are each equally responsible to solve that problem.
When I was growing up, there were kids I didn’t like so much because we didn’t get along easily. They would hurt me, or other children.
But I was lucky enough to be raised in a way, that I also knew to look for the good in these kids and that what they did wasn’t because they were bad or mean, but because they had to deal with difficult situations at home, didn’t know how to process their stress differently and needed extra kindness.
I learned to see the good in everyone, but not how to solve the problems that were still arising.
I just tried to be nice and hoped for the best. At the same time, I swallowed my own feelings.
There’s a thin line, between understanding people’s difficulties and accommodating bad behaviour.
Until quite recently, I was mostly accommodating. Practising what I learned, looking to understand where people were coming from, recognizing difficulties and accepting them, still seeing the good, not allowing my own feelings.
What I did not learn was how to step up for myself and to not make excuses for bad behaviour, or do my part to change it.
If we have a dream, we need to put in the work to make it a reality. And the work always starts with ourselves.
If we tolerate bad behaviour, we are complicit. If we want equality and justice, it’s essential to learn how to help each other skilfully to grow towards the light, to move our attention from the person to the problem.
I did that with the tomatoes yesterday. It’s not so different. If one is on the ground, growing in the wrong direction, I can simply support it with some sticks, give it some guidance to turn towards the sun, help it grow to be healthy and strong. It’s a problem I know how to solve.
I wouldn’t think it’s a bad tomato, or be disappointed because it doesn’t have the strength to lift itself up. I don’t take it personally and turn away from it because I think it’s a reflection of how I planted the seed.
It’s just a tomato in need of some guidance to become the best version of itself.
And this is especially true, if it is growing in the wrong direction, because of how I planted the seed. We make mistakes, but we can acknowledge them, and see how we can make up for them. No judgement needed here either.
Many things that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from the Roma communities I lived with in Ukraine.
Especially when it comes to raising children.
I remember when my dog Izabella was a puppy and one of the kids grabbed him and took off. I wanted to go watch them, but my host just sat me back down and said: „With that kid you don’t have to worry, the other one you shouldn’t leave alone with your dog.“
There was no judgement in that sentence, it didn’t mean anything other than that the other kid would need a little extra guidance.
Like the tomatoes, like you and me, some can do it themselves, some need more support, the cause doesn’t matter, the action is what counts.
Izabella just turned ten, and over the years I’ve watched both kids turn into young men. Each of them unique, special and perfect in their own way. Raised with love, encouragement and silent guidance.
I think often we find it hard to look at the problem and not at the person.
Many of us struggle to walk this line between understanding and being complicit and have not learned to be in the moment, to quietly guide and to acknowledge that we are powerful in any situation and even have an obligation to change the situation if it is possibly harmful.
Often we accommodate, swallow our feelings until we can’t take it any more and pack up and leave. Or start a big fight, or break up contact.
But it’s never because of the other person, it’s because we can’t handle the situation any differently.
In order to see someone for who they are, we need to learn to see ourselves, too. As long as we avoid looking at ourselves, we will see our reflection in others and will want to turn away from it.
We can, however, quite effortlessly see what bothers us about someone and know that it’s something we have as well and suppress. As soon as we resolve it in ourselves, it does not bother us in other people any more, but enables us to help them turn towards the light.
We don’t think we can solve the problem and therefore make it about the person, but it’s never been about them.
In my dream, we will have learned what it takes to solve our problems, so we can love each person for who they are. Including ourselves.
Dear future self, I will continue to do my part to make this dream come true, so you may have the chance to focus on other things.
But I wonder, have things changed? How? What did we have to do to create that change on a larger scale?