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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Sons of...Sons With?

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: "Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

This quote is usually attributed to Plato but Quote Investigator notes the correct attribution is Ian MacLaren, the pen name of 19th century Scottish minister John Watson.

In one of his books, Rev. Watson discusses this quote: "This man [sic] beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched....And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle."

It's so important to remember this (and to treat ourselves kindly as well), especially when all of us are still experiencing such stress.

Sons of...Sons With?

I had an interesting little encounter this morning. I had gone over to a nearby lab associated with the university medical center. Even though I wasn't there for anything particularly serious, I still felt a little anxious and uncomfortable, as I tend to do in medical settings. As I expect most people do.

The medical system is a huge and often emotionally sterile institution (pun intended). And if I'm being fully honest being in that kind of setting, even for a minor issue, makes it harder to ignore my physical vulnerability. And my mortality.

So sometimes I find myself instinctively looking for ways to lighten up and/or personalize the interactions in those settings, even just a little.

On the other hand...

On my way out of the lab this morning I noticed an older couple with a younger adult, presumably a mother, father and daughter. But I confess--they first caught my attention because the mother was wearing her mask "wrong"--loose and below her nose. I am still really bothered when I see that. If you wear it like that you might as well not wear a mask for all the good it's doing you and other people! But I don't say anything in situations like that; it wouldn't be appropriate.

We ended up getting on the same elevator so I was glad that the mask I wear is a really good one. It's a KN95 and looks rather silly, kind of like a duck's bill, but it fits very well. You can tell because when I inhale the mask pulls in a bit and when I exhale it puffs out just a bit. If there were loose gaps along the edges that wouldn't happen. (Sorry, the nurse in me couldn't resist a tiny bit of education.)

Anyway, that family trio seemed to be the kind of people I wouldn't normally hang out with. Maybe kind of "country"? In addition to that useless mask, Dad, though a smallish man, seemed kind of tough and scruffy, looking to me like he might be at home on a big motorcycle. And his mask looked like an American flag. Not that I dislike our flag--I can get choked up, and grateful, seeing one waving in the breeze as much as the next person. I just don't wear them. And my assumption is that people who do tend to think differently than me.

So yes, I was pre-judging them. And I pre-judged the mother and daughter because they were both rather overweight. Ah yes, prejudice...a very human, but not a very nice, or helpful, trait.

We didn't speak. Who knows what they thought of me, if anything.

Then as we got off the elevator and were walking the short distance to the exit, I noticed what looked like a a biker emblem on the back of the man's T-shirt, complete with a helmeted and grinning skull. I wasn't surprised. But as I got a bit closer and read the message, I started to grin. Maybe you've seen something like this. It was new to me:

Across the top it said, "Sons with Arthritis" and across the bottom "Ibuprofen Chapter."

Playing on the infamous Sons of Anarchy.

I laughed out loud. And there it was, in spite of my earlier prejudice. My opportunity for shared humor--and shared humanity--which I took almost without thought.

"I love your T-shirt," I called to the man, who didn't hear me at first. But his daughter turned around as we walked out into the parking lot. "You can tell him I love his shirt," I said, grinning. She nudged him and pointed back to me.

"What?" he said.

"I love your T-shirt," I said. "It's hilarious."

He laughed. "I saw it up in Pennsylvania and had to get it. Ibuprofen's a good friend of mine!"

I laughed with him. "I can't even take it anymore--it bothers my stomach!" I called back as we were parting ways. He smiled and waved. He got it. Shared humor. Shared vulnerability. Shared humanity.

I still feel blessed by that interchange. I need lots of reminders not to pre-judge, not to separate myself from others, because underneath it all we are--ultimately--the same.



Hoping, struggling, laughing to try to keep our chins up.


Until next time,


Photo credits:

Stressed person, Brut Carniollus, unSplash

D. Hunt, by L. Walkin

T-shirt, unknown (Amazon)


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