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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gifts that Matter: Non-judgment and Compassion

Joshua, Christmas 2011

We are called to look for God’s light that is shining forth in every person’s life, especially in those lives where God’s light seems heavily disguised.”    
~ Rev. Ed Bacon

            This month I am writing about GIFTS THAT MATTER. I think it is fitting for December, with Christmas coming in a few weeks. I feel I must begin by talking about something that breaks our hearts. In a couple of weeks, it will be the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. The world thought this would be the violent tragedy that changed America. It has not changed us. We became even more politically divided than ever and thousands more have died from gun violence. I have come to realize that politics and laws are not going to stop these tragedies from occurring. The only thing that will stop us from pointing guns at each other and pulling the trigger is love. Jesus Christ tries to teach us that love is the only answer to any problem, but we don’t understand it. If we did, these violent outbursts would stop.
            We have to start loving each other. I’m talking about the people we don’t know, the people we look down upon, the drunks, the drug addicts, the welfare moms, the gang members, the shooters, the bombers, the monsters. These are the people Jesus tells us to love. He does not say to love everyone except these types of people. He says to love everyone as your-self and he tells us not to judge lest we be judged. He says it many ways, through many parables. He even gives us examples through his own behavior. He shows us how gifts of non-judgment and compassion can transform the people to whom they are given. 
            The young man who ended the lives at Sandy Hook was loved by his family, but obviously that’s not enough. He needed to feel loved by society.  All of these people who commit these tragedies need to feel accepted and loved. Right after the shooting last year, I thought we might change when I saw the press conference called by the father of one of the children who were killed. This man, who had just lost his child in a senseless murder, told us we needed to show compassion for the shooter’s family. We ignored him. We ignored this man who spoke to us in his deepest grief. Why did we gravitate toward hatred, vilifying the shooter's parents in the media? We need to try to make sense of it all, but looking for fault is not the answer. We must look within ourselves and ask how we can stop the judgment of each other. What can I do to follow Jesus’ request of me? Can I stop and realize I don’t know these people? Can I understand that their mistakes are none of my business, and that Jesus wants me to love them all and have compassion for them all no matter what they have done? Most importantly of all, can I understand that blaming them and hating them will never change anything for the good and will only create more chaos in the world?
            If we, as a society, were to lay our judgments down and begin to treat all people with dignity and respect, no matter what their lifestyle, there could one day be peace in this world. It has been said by people of eastern religions that if every eight-year-old were to be taught how to meditate, there would be world peace within one generation. Imagine that. People will say this is a Pollyanna way of looking at things, but we will never truly know if it would happen if we never try.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 
~ Mahatma Gandhi

            It starts with you and it ends with you. Now, you might be thinking that just because you show dignity and respect to everyone does not mean everyone else will and you might be wondering how change can occur in the world if only some people change. I offer you three things –
1) It is not your business what others do,
2) You control yourself and no one else,
3) There is this powerful force called Karma. What you put out into the world comes back to you, just as Jesus said – your cup will run over. The way you treat people has a profound effect on them and how they will treat others. It might not happen right away, but the more people who are treated with dignity and shown loving kindness the more apt they will be to pass it on.
            There are people in the world with hateful attitudes. I know this. What if they were to be met out in the world with love? Even with their bad behavior, their swearing and aggressiveness and overall disregard for people around them, what if they were met with love anyway? Might not they see a different path? Might they become a little less aggressive? We don’t know because we don’t try. We just judge them and get away from them as fast as we can. We might even find ourselves chewing them out or being rude to them. I know because I have done it. I vow to never do it again. I can’t change my past behavior, but I can do better today than I did yesterday.

            I have felt the sting of judgment against my son and against me for the way I parent him. When Joshua was 4 or 5 years old and still in diapers I was judged by a cashier when I was buying diapers. She had no idea what our situation was. She saw a mom buying diapers for a child clearly old enough to be potty trained who looked like typical a child. Period. That was all she needed to know to make her judgment. Another time when Josh was around 6 or 7, we were in an elevator with a mom and her two kids, one of whom called Joshua a retard. I was very hurt and very angry with the mother because she did not correct him. She did have a look of horror on her face, though. I just ignored them, but a better response would have been to educate them both with kindness. A simple gift of non-judgment would have brought peace to me and maybe to them, as well.
            I did not know anything about ego back then and I was extremely hurt. Josh was not affected at all. He had no idea what had been said. All he knew was that kids were on the elevator with us and he was excited they were there. I was grateful he did not understand. I judged the little boy as an out of control brat and I judged his mother the same way I had been judged by the cashier, as a bad mom who was not parenting her child correctly. We had just come from Joshua’s neurologist’s office and I gave no consideration to the fact that they may have come from a doctor’s office, as well. Maybe the child had Tourette Syndrome. Maybe the mother was still trying to figure out how to cope with it, just as I was struggling to figure out my life with Joshua. You just never know. Ignoring them was not the worst thing to do, but my internal response could have been much better. I put a lot of negativity out into the world that day and on the day I was buying diapers. I thought up hundreds of nasty things I wished I had said to those people. All of those negative thoughts went out into the world whether I spoke them or not. I was not at peace and so the world around me could not be at peace, either.

“How someone treats me does not relieve me of my responsibility to treat them like the child of God that they are.” 
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            We can start practicing non-judgment and compassion with our own families and work our way out from there. We just celebrated Thanksgiving and now we are focused on Christmas. It is a joyous time of year for most people. We look forward to sharing time with our families, especially those we don’t get to see very often. However, many people have family members they feel they must tolerate being around because it is the holiday season. We want to get together with some of our loved ones, but not certain other family members. There are multitudes of reasons why we don’t want to be around some people. Some of us have family we refuse to have anything to do with because of disagreements and fights we have had. Whoever it is, or whatever the issue is, it makes for a dreadful holiday.
            Why can’t we just take a break from the drama for the holidays? The answer is very simple. We all behave this way because we are not at peace. Every day I see people who are not at peace. I see them on Facebook, I see them out in public and I see them in my family. I witness the turmoil in their lives and I want to shake them and say,

You will never find peace in that bottle.
You will never find peace in blaming others for where you are in your life! This is a result of YOUR choices, no one else’s! You can make different choices.
You don’t need anyone or anything to change in order to have peace. All you have to do is claim it for yourself.
Accept what you cannot change (other people). Change the things you can (YOUR mind, YOUR heart, YOUR attitude). Once you have done this you have obtained the wisdom to know the difference!
Peace begins with your love and compassion for others!

            I want so much for them to understand that peace is not found outside of them. It is found within. But it looks like it is found outside of us. That is the problem. We believe that if so-and-so would stop behaving badly we could live peacefully. Those of you who have children and grandchildren know that there is nothing they could do that would make you stop loving them. Nothing. It is our mission to find that same love we have for our children and give it freely to every being. It is not easy sometimes to show love to our own family when they act out against us. As I am writing this post over the past few days, I have been tested and it is difficult to know how to respond, even if I should respond. My intuition tells me not to respond and I have learned to listen to it. A response would only keep them stuck in the ego drama. So my internal response is to pray for the ones who are in turmoil right now. I pray that everyone involved receives the peace they need, no matter what has been said, no matter what has been done. I pray for everyone to receive all the gifts I want for myself because I know my prayers will be answered. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I have faith because I have seen the results in my own life.
           I was in hell for many years and I acted out in hateful ways, so I understand why people lash out. They are not in their right mind. My past experience reminds me that the little devil ego in our minds wants the drama to continue so it can survive. Its survival means the death of the angle in our heart. People act in hateful ways because they have given all their power to the ego devil and their angel has faded almost to death. They don't even realize this is what they are doing. Sometimes the result is turmoil within a family and sometimes the result is shots fired into innocent bodies. 

“We need to decide if we are going to be disciples or admirers only, of Jesus. And can I just tell you, Jesus doesn't need any more admirers.”
~ Rev. Gene Robinson

            Our job, as children of God, is to give the gifts of non-judgment and compassion to those who we can clearly see are not at peace. We must look at their lives from their perspective as much as we can and try to understand why they behave the way they do. It may be difficult to see their reasons for it because, often times, we don’t know what they have been through. We must try. We can start by realizing that meanness does not happen overnight. We can give up our feelings of superiority and start acting like we truly believe Jesus’ message of love. And, we can begin to understand the reasons don’t even matter anyway. We must do this with our families and we must do this with strangers. We must take on the responsibility of being true Christian disciples of Jesus, because if we don’t we are nothing more than his admirers.

My love to you all!

Enjoy a sermon by Rev. Gene Robinson here.

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