How many roads must a man walk down before… you can put almost anything after these words from “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
I made a comment to a casual acquaintance about having a recurrant ear infection. For those of you who have never had one – it usually comes with sharp stabbing pain, throbbing pain, and burning along with swelling and can result in everything from hearing loss to simply a miserable few days to weeks and sometimes both eardrops and antibiotics (if bad enough).
I was a bit surprised at the “funny” remarks he made.
I didn’t get offended. This guy is harmless. I didn’t get angry for the same reason. I did decide this was a teachable moment – a journey that needed to be taken. So I contacted him a bit later and we took that journey – gently and with compassion.
If someone told you that they had cancer again, would it be funny? No? Why not?
How about a heart problem – endocarditis or a heart attack. Great yuck point? No? Why not?
I got a lot of apologies I was not looking for and did not want. I was neither offended nor angry, but I could imagine him saying that to parents of a kid who, no matter how much they treat their child, have a child deafened by ear infections. Were I that parent I’d want to clout him for being an insensitive jerk.
It took about half an hour to walk him from, “I’m just trying to make light of things” to “I guess having painful ear infections and the potential of losing hearing isn’t funny.”
He cited a relative who made fun of being in the hospital. I responded, that was the patient making jokes about himself trying to lighten the mood. You don’t walk up to someone with Downs and make light of the situation they are facing, nor someone who is blind, nor suffering from an illness. Not unless that person is making jokes to begin with and they want you to join in.
“I guess we shouldn’t pick on people who are sick or different than ourselves.”
“Are we okay now?”
We were always okay. The second to last sentence made me feel as if this guy has at least found the gravel by the side of the road. He thanked me for the teachable moment rather than the clubbing about the head and shoulders.
How many roads must a man walk down before we learn to actually listen to what others are saying, and offer compassion rather than ridicule dressed up as humor? I’d like to find that out someday.It is a personal journey each and every time. Some learn it early. Some learn it late.
~Toad in the Hole