Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Becoming a pioneer woman
I spent my last couple of days in Texas helping sis get ready for her new visitors. While no doubt it will be challenging for all of them, I also have a firm belief that good things can come from all experiences. For one, learning to cook and keep house.
It is hard for me to fathom a young woman coming of age and not knowing how to cook, or clean the bathroom, mop a floor, or do laundry. Those were things we both learned by direct instruction from my mother and grandmothers, and by observation and helping with those routine chores. I could cook a full meal, buy groceries, clean a kitchen, clean an entire house, and do laundry (including ironing!) long before I was 18 and left home. I no longer think I am defined by the cleanliness of my house or my prowess in the kitchen, but they are both useful and necessary skills--for all of us, not just women. It is a generous and loving opportunity for her and her husband to learn some of those skills that lead to organization, self-care, and healthier living, and the obligation and responsibility that comes with being a family, and with having to manage a household. It will help them, and help sis, due to her never-ending tasks to care for mother and daddy.
Not everyone is happy about it, and not everyone has to be happy about it. From my point of view however, everyone should be respectful of the decision and the reasons for it, regardless. I know that is pie-in-the-sky airy-fairy to some folks, but I still hold on to the idea that we should support and respect the right to self-determination, and believe that people can make right choices for themselves even if those are not the choices we would like for them. The change comes with expectations and boundaries, along with an abundance of unconditional love--it is not a free ride.
And that brings me to the next issue that has occupied my thinking these last few days: When did folks get the idea that one makes it on his or her own? That we must be capable of doing everything for ourselves and never needing help from others? And especially how did folks get that idea when so many of them espousing it had a lot of support and help from others, primarily by some sort of privileged status. Privilege does not just mean wealth and inherited wealth. Privilege can be the result of having educated parents who have a decent income, parents who buy a car for you, or pay for your housing, tuition, and textbooks, having gone to adequately funded schools who could attract good teachers. I look at the difference in the performance of students who have no family support, no income or resources for text books and decent computers, for example, and those who have families who provide childcare, housing, tuition and text book funding, and wonder how it is that someone sees that level of support as "making it on your own." If the idea is independence, meaning the capacity to care for oneself at the level that is expected, then we have to give the tools, instruction, and resources to enable that, and no amount of preaching about the importance of making it on your own changes that. If someone did not get those tools earlier, one does not just acquire them magically because one is legally of age--you still have to learn them. I have seen far too many young people perish under the overwhelming burden of trying to "make it" without an adequate foundation of knowledge and skills for doing so, and flounder hopelessly in the continued absence of that foundation.
Why is it that some folks have no difficulty with using the services of the police department, fire department, public school teachers, driving on roads and bridges, and then think the government should not provide health care for poor children? If you cannot put out your own house fire, or solve your own robbery or burglary, get across the river on your own, you must not be independent and making it on your own, right? Somewhere along the way, we seemed to forget that none of us pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, but stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. That does not mean we do not, or should not, work hard, do our share, contribute, and indeed, pay it forward to those coming after us. It does mean to me that without compassion and caring for those who are not able to do what "you" do for whatever reasons, one is but "...a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
As Sister Cassidy used to say, "If you are not going to help, then be like the ants and just get on out of the way."