Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lessons in the Dirt............

When I was little, I would gather together with all my girlfriends and play "House".  This was the 1960's, so we all aspired to be just like our mothers-good wives and caretakers.   The thought of having a career outside the home when we were older never crossed our minds.  We copied what we saw every day--women changing diapers, shopping, cleaning, and cooking.  Cooking was the most fascinating of all.  That was when a woman was allowed to be creative.  So, armed with a collection of discarded Polly-O Ricotta containers and old tins, we would make mud cakes and pies from dirt in the yard. Then we would feed them to my brother.

My brother was a year younger than me and always tagging along.  All the other boys in the neighborhood were out and about playing baseball, football or some other kind of sport.  My brother Joe was never really the "sports-type" so he didn't get along with the boys.  They would run off and leave him behind.  The girls didn't really want him either, he was after-all, a boy.  If he wanted to be part of our club, he had to do whatever we said.  Desperate to be included, my beautiful brother willingly obeyed and allowed us to feed him spoonful after spoonful of dirt. 

Each evening when we came inside, my mom would wash us up for dinner.  She would ask Joe the same question every single day. "Son, have you been eating dirt?"  My brother would swear up and down he did not and Mom would let it go. He didn't realize those dried clumps of grit and sand collecting in the corners of his mouth were a dead give-away  Of course I wasn't about to say a word about it.  I would get a whipping for sure if I let on that I was feeding my brother dirt. 

This went on for quite some time and my mom never pushed the issue.  Then one evening it all changed. It was a Wednesday and we were having spaghetti (every good Italian housewife served spaghetti on Wednesday).  Mom lovingly placed huge plates of pasta and meatballs on the table for me and my dad.  

My brother was served a big bowl of dirt.

Tears streamed down my brother's face as he stared at the meal set before him. "Where's my spaghetti?" he cried.
"Well, " Mom replied. " Since you enjoy eating dirt outside all day, I thought you would like to have it for dinner tonight!'

Dear friends, I remember this day as if it happened yesterday. It was painful. It was awful.  The tears and humiliation were truly heartbreaking as my brother and I sat there and sobbed before our parents.  

Joe cried because his secret was out.  I cried because I was such a mean and heartless sister. After much begging, pleading and promising to never again eat dirt, eventually my brother got his big dish of spaghetti.  I got a spanking.

After that day, my brother never ate dirt again. And I refused to allow anyone to try and feed it to him.

You might think this is cruel and unusual punishment but there was a method to our mother's madness.  Certainly she did not want my brother eating dirt.  All those germs and bugs and God knows what! But there was a deeper lesson here.  She wanted to heal something inside of each of us. 

My brother's need and desire to be part of a group caused him to suffer humilation and lower his standards.  He subjected himself to abuse. He allowed himself to be pushed around by his big sister and her friends and eat dirt.  He didn't want to eat dirt.  He just wanted to be accepted.

My lesson was a bit different.  I also wanted to be part of the group but it ran deeper than that. Not only was I willing to stand by and watch my brother subject himself to such stupidity, I was the one who actually fed it to him. I was the older one and he trusted me.  Whatever I said, he would do because he wanted my love and my friendship.

People will feed us what allow them to feed us.  We also allow others to be abused by standing there and letting it happen. This is how a victim is born.

 No group, organization, friendship or love is worth sacrificing what you think is right or good.  If it tastes awful, it is awful and it is harmful.  Perhaps not physically harmful, but certainly damaging to your spirit. Never allow anyone to spoon feed you something you don't want to eat.

If my mother had not done what she did, and my brother continued to allow us to feed him dirt, he might have become a man with no mind of his own and constantly abused by others. He is not like that now at all. He is strong and kind and thinks for himself.  As for me, I could have grown into an unkind, uncaring, abusive woman, standing by and allowing others to be hurt, at my own hand or at the hands of others. Thankfully, that is not who I am.

Don't eat dirt. Don't allow anyone to feed it to you, don't feed it to others, and don't stand by and watch someone feed it to another person.

And this is my Daily Cyn.........

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful truthful post! So many times we see this sort of thing. I love your last line. I may use it with your permission! (Quoting you, of course)