WE ARE ONE

Lasha Morningstar

June 3, 2013

"It doesn't matter." Too often we say these words out loud or silently to ourselves.

Usually it is an escape clause, an excuse to not follow through. At times it can be a giving up, a realization that no matter what you do, it will have no effect, it won't matter.

No wonder we say those words though. The world seems to be hurtling by, leaving us in the dust of unemployment, downsizing, pollution, unrelenting wars, wanton crime.

So what can any one person do?

As a lieutenant on the Los Angeles Police department once advised, "You use your power. No matter what you might think or feel right now, you do have power."

Adopting the power perspective when one is awash with the depression that surrounds the it-doesn't-matter outlook takes a major shift in attitude. It takes work, hard work. At times, to make that switch means joining forces with a professional.

Profound sadness means maybe it is time to talk with a therapist. Find the one that is a good fit. We are responsible for both our physical and mental health.

If work is the problem – you are being bullied, abused, eased out the door (the term is constructive dismissal) – keep a journal and go to a lawyer.

These are but two powerful examples of places where we can feel we don't matter. The key: Take action.

Listening to stories of young boys and girls stabbing, overdosing, shooting or killing themselves can invoke rage until you hear their stories of how they feel either they don't matter or the people they hurt do not matter.

Too often the stories pendulum between two extremes. Neglect – physical and emotional – leaves the kid feeling no one cares about them. They have no hope, no dreams.

On the other side are the helicopter parents who constantly hover over their kids to make sure their child never knows failure, is never wrong, never takes the consequences for their actions.

In these kids' minds, they matter too much. These self-absorbed narcissists get quite a shock when they leave home and discover the world doesn't revolve around them.

SHOULDER SHRUGGING

Standing on the outside looking in, means too many just shrug their shoulders and say "There's nothing I can do."

Sure there is. Volunteer. Find a way to slip into a child's life through a social agency, hospital, mental health agency. Take time to care. You will never know the difference you might make, not just for the child but also for you. Or teach an adult to read. Such a gift – to both of you.

As Bruce Cockburn sings, "Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."

I once volunteered at a major hospital in another city. My job was to care for infants and little ones who had no one. These would be those in state care – foster children – or those whose parents, for whatever reason, could not come to visit.

One day a wee baby was admitted. Her name was Marie and she was seven months old. Many medical names were attached to her but in plain language she was so dirty her skin was peeling off and infection set in. My job, if I wanted to, was to "try to clean her up."

ASTONISHED EYES

You bet.

A bathing dish, warm water, soap, face cloths, towels, Q Tips were gathered. I shall never forget the look on her face when I gently lowered her into the warm water. Her brown-black eyes widened with astonishment as I held her neck and back and began to wash her with the soapy facecloth. A smile crept over her face and in my heart.

It took a long time. As the water cooled, I changed it. Washing her raven black hair meant cleaning the cradle cap. Marie was so relaxed she began making those marvellous baby noises and splashing the water with her arms and feet.

WRAPPED IN TOWELS

Bath finished, I swaddled her up in towels and reached for the Q Tips. This was the hard part. Her ears. Each little crevice hid peeling skin, bits of dirt.

As I bent over her, a nurse came by and watched. She was a compassionate woman who had worked with babies and children for decades. She had seen a lot.

It was from that perspective she said to me, "You can make her all clean but you know in another seven months, she will be just as dirty, just as neglected."

She sighed and walked away.

Maybe so. But at that point in time, bathing Marie and loving her mattered – both to Marie and me.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)