Where I live has come a long way. Don't get me wrong.
But, as I type out this post, I can't help but burn a little hotter these days. Why? Because of where I live. Yes, that's right. This post is about the fantastic city where I have spent my entire life and, if you know me personally, you know that it will forever be a love/hate relationship.
I mean, just look at this. It's as picturesque as it gets. As an outsider, I can completely see how this view could be pristine. It's not quite Podunk, but definitely not urban. It's sort of suburban, but not altogether that, either. You might look at this picture with a bit of jealousy. Summer in New England might be one of the best times of the year, yet there is an underbelly to these stretches of little cities that no one sees, that is unless you are close enough to dig into it with your fingernails. But be careful, though. You might not like what you scrape up.
Like lobster guts and crab shells spewed across your front yard.
I live on a street that is pretty well traversed. I am constantly scanning the road's edge and picking up random snags of litter here and there. It's a daily thing and I've accepted it, knowing that I'm ultimately responsible for my yard. I do take pride in my house's image, even if I let the lawn grow out a little before I cut it.
But this...this sucked. I spent a solid thirty minutes (at 7:15am, no less) hunched over with gloves, swiping at pungent, decomposing meat that someone had casually chucked out their window because they felt it was better for me to deal with their problems rather than take care of it themselves.
I felt disrespected. I was angry. I was ready to punch someone in the face.
So what does this have to do with my faith in the human race? You can probably tell, but:
Hold your horses, will ya? I'm getting there.
To be honest, this isn't just about my beloved city and its great people and not-so-great people. This is ultimately about how people treat others. This is about respect.
I've grown up with the help of some diligent parents that kept me in line growing up, even when I wanted to rebel against them with every fiber in my body. One of the methods they used to help me understand was dialogue. They treated me like a human being who can make the right decisions for myself. One thing my dad always taught me was this:
"You are not measured by what you do while people are watching, but what you do when they aren't."
That nugget of knowledge really stuck with me. In fact, it's carried me through my years of high school punkery, college shenanigans, and now, as a husband, author, and homeowner. So why has the world fallen so far away from this mindset? How has our collective conscience strayed so far from the path that 'empathy' is no longer a word in our universal vocabulary?
Well, it starts with this:
Now before you all go nuts with the 'you're not a parent!' counter arguments, let me tell you what I do know.
I know full well that I am young and that, no, I do not have children, but I do know that parents are the first teachers a child will have. I know that the concept of 'nurture' is far greater in our world than 'nature'. I know that kids are greatly influenced by how their parents act, what their parents say, and the people they interact with. Kids, especially the littlest ones, are walking environmental sponges, absorbing everything and anything they can take in with their senses. The concept of parenting will never change because it's engrained into our DNA. It has a stronghold on who we are as a people and who we are as a species in this universe. Whether we choose, as parents or future parents, to adhere to these rules, is where the wagon might fall off the wheels too early.
It's hard to imagine a world where these things no longer matter. Sure, it would make a great science fiction novel (noted), but I'm 110% positive that anything other than what is described above would be counterintuitive to what good parenting should be.
And then, after years of shaping a human being, a guy like me gets a crack at it here:
A good teacher has the ability to change lives. That's what I love best about my job. I love that it's not 9am-5pm. I love that it's an ongoing struggle. I love that I'm constantly working to make kids better, more responsible human beings. I don't like how I'm losing my hair so quickly, though. I'll admit to that. Bald spots are NOT okay.
All jokes aside, even if I took my job as literally as I possibly could, at its core I would still be teaching my classroom kiddos how to empathize. In case you don't know what this word means, check it out:
If we all just try to see where other people are coming from, we may have a better understanding of why people do what they do in the first place. It may not stop all burglaries, thefts, littering, or vandalism, but I truly believe that the lessening of such things in our cities and towns can only happen if we shift our attitudes to one of empathy rather than jealousy, anger, or bitterness.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person who hurt you. Yes, you might still feel some (or a lot of) resentment, especially if whatever happened directly affected your state of being or your sense of security, but there must have been a reason...and if that reason is big enough, then you have your answer.
It starts with a mindset change in one person that spreads to others until it catches like wildfire and changes the perception of the world. Right now, especially where I call home, this perception is simply not present.
It will only change when the people change and, as our world slowly descends into a very weird and very real cyberpunk novel, I hope that people can find it within themselves to do the right thing. To be moral enough to, not only do the right thing while people are watching, but still uphold a sense of morality when they aren't.
Until next time,