Behind every set of eyes and ears lives someone whose life is a mystery to others. Each of us has some characteristics or chutzpah that help us get through life from one day to the next. Each time we go through something and come out of it unscathed, there is a part of us that quietly rejoices. Then we meet or hear about someone who makes it through the worst of odds and they simply blow you away with their dignity during times of complete chaos. Elizabeth Edwards appeared to be that kind of woman.
I did not know Elizabeth Edwards, but there was something beautiful about the dignity that she displayed at what must have been the worst public moments of her life. With her head held high she went through emotional and physical pain at the news that her husband and life partner had cheated on her and cancer was trying to take her life. While she admits to tears and suffering, her media headlines tell of a woman who would not let the troubles of the world break her.
TODAY, DECEMBER 7, 2010, ELIZABETH EDWARDS LOST HER BATTLE WITH CANCER. That is certainly what the headlines will say. However, I have a different take on her life. Today, Elizabeth Edwards taught us all that “SHATTERED GLASS NEVER BREAKS”, with head held high she went through so much and demonstrated what true strength looks like. Elizabeth Edwards is free from all the pain and though she never had a chance to see her children become parents ( a desire of hers) she left her heirs a legacy of dignity to learn from for years and years to come. In her own words Elizabeth Edwards writes before departing from this world, “I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious.”
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
We purchased a home and I remember the feeling of being the new kid on the block. Beaming with energy and excitement we went through the visions we had for our two-flat and cleaned around the property daily. One day, I came home and there was a car double parked in the street, but not in the open parking space in front of our house. I rolled down my window, smiled and politely asked the woman in the car if I could park there. She didn’t move and stared at me, I knew that there was plenty of space to back in, but I wanted to be safe and just see if she could move up just while I parked. She did not move, I backed in and parked. As I exited my car, I heard her door shut, someone came out on the porch next door and she began to shout expletives at me. I was called every name in the book. I stopped, looked at her and ascended the stairs to my home. I glanced at the person on the porch next door and his smile almost said I am sorry as he listened to her curse me out.
What came over me as I went in and told my husband, was an incredible sense of sadness. I was not angry, those words did not harm me, they hurt her more, because her anger grew and I knew it was not healthy. If this woman was my neighbor and it turned out later that she was, the opportunity for neighborly respect and a chance to know someone else in this strange new neighborhood diminished. I am happy that I had the wisdom to pause, think and not react negatively to the pain and anger that was exploding next to me. I was calm in the face of so much anger, with good reason, I didn’t know where this was going or could have headed.
The true story above is a reminder to us all that we have a responsibility to each other in a properly functioning society. No, my little incident above is not a reflection on world change, but it is an example that a moment’s haste can cost us so much. I wanted to apologize for whatever I did that triggered her rage, but I knew that it was not me. We all have moments where our reactions do not match the situation at hand. We walk around with such pinned up anger that we simply can’t exercise the power of pausing, thinking, and then reacting. Here in Chicago the world is taking a glance at the violence that is plaguing our young and threatening the future of so many family legacies. The young, who are thought to be the promise and hope of the world are having their names chiseled on stone long before their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. For some, an entire family name dies with them. Pause, think and react is a message to all of us, that in one moment you can change the energy and direction of so many lives around you, including your own.
To the domestic violence abuser, pause, think, react to the situation at hand, not to your loved one.
To those inflicted with road rage, pause, think, react to the road ahead, not another driver, don’t bring anger behind the wheel.
To family members, pause, think, react, a true spiritual brother’s/sister’s keeper finds wisdom in the unity prayer, not in divisive connivery.
To those who grapple with violence’s grip, we acknowledge the pain that we cannot feel for you, but pause, think and react, the life you save is a reflection of what the future holds for you and them. In that moment, the choice is in your hands.
To those in the throngs of struggle, pause, think and react, in that moment where despair seems to trap you, the keys have a way of showing up when you allow the pain to escape through tears, writing, talking, exercise and prayer/meditation, whatever you do.
Pause, think and react because there are enough of us in this world that can do something about the legacy that we are leaving our young.
I know that this is not a message that everyone will get, there are many teachers in the world, but there are enough of us who believe in the human capacity to grow rich branches from strong trees of ancestry to make a difference. Our examples are being watched and listened to by careful little eyes and ears that glow with the excitement to learn from mommy, daddy, family and friends. My husband and I teach our child about his family and friends that we have around us in a positive manner, he learns about the world from us first. We have a responsibility to teach them truth. A caution about truth; it should not always be based on our opinions that are born out of pain that they have never experienced, but instead with the reminder of their innocence and desire for love, learning and a future of promise. Pause, think and react about how what we say around them about other people, places and things will register in their minds. Apply this same philosophy to how we treat other adults in the world and we’re on to something good for all of society at large, a society where people strive to achieve happiness not just in their favor, but in everyone’s favor. I really hope that whatever troubled my neighbor, that I told you about at the start of this post has healed. Please pause, think and react friends. Those feelings that are trapped inside of you are part of your personal library of emotions. It’s up to you to determine which chapter to play out from day-to-day. In the words of Gwendolyn Brooks, ”We are each others harvest, We are each others business, We are each others magnitude and bond”. Pause, think react.