I READ A LOT. News. Books. Obituaries. And sometimes something touches me in a way that makes me want to cry at the cruelty of humanity. That happened this week when I read a tribute on an online obituary for a 45-year-old Faribault-born man.
I didn’t know Allen. I have no idea why he died. But he clearly was loved.
Yet, life wasn’t always easy for him, as his friend Rachel notes in her comment. She remembers the times they hung out on her front porch as teens “talking about nothing at all and everything.” I love the wordage of that remembrance. But then Rachel continues. “He always has (d) a smile and a kind word for everyone even though he was made fun (of) as much as I was.”
In that singular sentence, my heart simply broke. I know Rachel, enough to believe her truth. I admire her for writing that truth, not only about herself, but about the friend she says she will always miss.
Why were people mean to Allen and Rachel? And to me? I, too, was picked on as a child and pre-teen, sometimes even as an adult. Decades later the memories of those hurtful words still sting. Rachel’s comment reveals the same.
Yet, despite the teasing, Allen maintained a positive attitude with his always smile and kind words. That says something for his resilience, his ability to overcome, at least outwardly. He had a good friend in Rachel.
As I reflect on this, I follow the lead of these two friends. If you’ve endured meanness, I think you can go two ways—become just like the bullies or choose to be kind and empathetic. Allen, Rachel and I chose kindness. My compassion for those who are picked on/bullied/teased/made fun of, whether as children or adults, runs deep. In this moment of reading Rachel’s thoughts about Allen, my heart simultaneously breaks and swells with gratitude for these two friends who talked about nothing at all and everything.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
this made me cry just to read it. what a brave and brilliant obituary from Rachel. what beautiful friends they were to the end, and this, her final gift to Allen. I so agree with you about the two ways people go who have endured being a victim of others’ cruelty. I have been a victim of some cruelty over the years, and have chosen the path of empathy and compassion. (I also read obituaries, as they are often amazing small stories written by loved ones who knew the deceased better than anyone)
Beth, what a kind and compassionate soul you are. But I already knew that. And, yes, I fully agree that this is a wonderful gift Rachel offered in her comment about Allen.
And, yes, obituaries are often amazing short stories that reveal much about individuals. Now that families write obits, they are much more personal. In one of my first journalism classes, the first thing we learned was how to write an obit. In my early days of reporting, I penned those. They were rather straightforward. I’m glad that’s changed to beyond the basics of a person’s life to stories.
Resilience, compassion, strength, kindness . . . I am blessed to have women in my life that were educators and that help those with special needs. I was taught at an early age to be respectful, kind, have nothing nice to say keep it to myself, et. al. I have received those people in my life that are not so nice. I get to take the narrative I want now as adult and usually just choose to smile and move on. Those people are not worth my time and energy. I feel sad for them and hope my interactions are lessons but more likely will not change them for the better. I truly hope that we all have that person that just is ours and they just gets all of you 🙂 That is a blessing and a precious gift! Happy Day – Enjoy
Renee, as always I appreciate your insightful thoughts. I’m thankful for the strong women in your life who taught you to treat others with kindness and respect.
It is interesting how cruel people can be…I wonder what has happened to them…seems to me something bad has happened to act that way…why else?
That could definitely be one of the reasons.
Oh how compassionate…. So much thought provoking emotion here. Two things I noted- we are similar in that I read stories about people I don’t know and find my heart breaking for them. Second is there’s so many reasons kids are mean to kids and yet it’s still heartbreaking and hard to understand. Is it because they lash out at others to vent anger they have about their own plight? Is it ignorance? Is it to truly be cruel or is it to seek attention from others? So many questions always. So sad.
I’m with you on thinking the reasons are varied. It’s all around sad, for the person bullied and for the bully.
Bullying rears its head often and in many ways. I, too, was a victim at times but fortunately it only made me stand up for others that were made fun of or ostracized. I sometimes think those who bully are feeling inadequate in some way and this is how they elevate themselves.
Good for Rachel for being there for Allen. I am sure he appreciated it more than she knew.
That’s the positive in this situation. The friendship shared by Rachel and Allen and how she was there for him, even now.
Beautiful piece Audrey.
It is hard to take the high road when someone has done something evil to you. Being teased as a kid because we were sheep farmers kids, wood smoke smelling kids, kids who were not Fins or Swedes, kids who still had an outhouse. All those things at the time were hurtful and I am sure I spilled many tears. But, as I got older I drew on those early lessons when I was a leader in the Army, I am no better than any one of my troops! I never tolerated bullying. Unfortunately as a woman that bullied culture just seemed to find other creative ways to putting people down. But, in my experience taking the high road is always the best solution. Sooner or later those who create and inflict evil on others will get what is coming to them 10 fold. All of us just need to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Again, great piece Audrey!
Thank you, Paula, for your strong stand against bullying. I’m sorry you also endured such meanness. I’m thankful you have used this to show compassion for others.
The saying goes…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is true but hard to believe when you are in the middle of experiencing it!
Side issue here, Paula: I can no longer access your blog. It says the site is “private.”