no. matter. what.
I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.
My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”
I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.
(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)
Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!
As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.
(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)
And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.
Most people don’t have that.
That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.
Most people have never even had one-third of that.
So, today, as I’m sitting and trying to fathom how to express to the unexposed what it’s like to have people who will lift you no matter what, I’m at a loss.
The best thing I can think to say is: The next time you’re stumbling, the next time you think you’re alone, the next time you think there is no one who could love you for thinking or doing what you just did, please think of me and my siblings.
It is an accident of time and space you did not have siblings like we did. So, when this moment of questioning your worth is upon you, I’d ask you to imagine you have the four of us there with you, each saying, “I know you as more and better than what you did right there.”
It might be difficult, at first. So I’d ask, too, that you imagine this over and over again: that each time you conceive of yourself as unforgiven and unforgivable, you imagine yourself sitting among me and my siblings and know this is untrue.
The imagining probably won’t ever come close to replicating what it was like to grow up in this. All the same, I hope and pray that your continuing trying to imagine it will help you understand that the lack of compassion you might face in your daily life isn’t about you. It’s about the people around you, not all of whom are there because of facts or circumstances within your control.
My sons adore each other wildly; and my sisters’ siblings? They feel the same about theirs, as I hope their children will. None of us are individuals apart from our circumstances. We are all, in part, products of our circumstance, and only a fraction of us are fortunate enough to have circumstances that include siblings who have loved and will always love you, no. matter. what.