i suppose i can blame the books i’ve been reading. i’ve been doing a lot of reading, even more so than usual it seems – i’ll get a couple of books in between book club monthly reads. i’ve done several with story lines surrounding not just nazi germany but post WWs. i highly recommend The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein, which probably laid the foundation for the thoughts that emerged tonight as i continued with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
the invisible wall as a love story between a christian boy and a jewish girl that was quite forbidden. quite literally, one side of the street was jewish and the other side christian. throughout the entire book you see the seperation the groups maintained and the many mechanisms they employeed to keep it that way.
a tree grows in brooklyn is a story of a young family growing up in poverty in (you guessed it) brooklyn. tonight there was a story of the 7-year-old girl going to the doctor, sans mother because she was working a janitor job, and the distaste of a doctor and nurse talking of her dirtiness and disgust while not understanding that she could hear them. in the dialogue of medical personnel, over and over it was “they” or “them”. “can’t they at least wash?” he says.
wow, 3 paragraphs, and i’m not even close to getting to the point. but at least you got 2 free book summaries and recommendations.
how many people, or even groups of people, have been hurt by the words they, them or their? and what makes them they? why aren’t they we? the 2 sides of the street shared a street. how was it not “our street”? the nurse grew up in the same neighborhood as the dirty girl. how was that not “our children”?
it seems these words antagonize differences. go to any sporting event involving kids or teenagers and you hear how the other team, they [started practices before it was allowed] [use kids of illegal age] [brought the referees on their bus]. we’re brutal in the way we yell and discuss the actions of one of the players, yet somewhere on the other bleachers sits his mother. to her, he’s not “they”. he’s “we”.
for a while at work i noticed a lot of “they” language being used. they, the decision makers, don’t care. they, the ones doing a different type of work than me, got better hours. i can attest that life at work wasn’t as good. but once we start thinking in terms of we, things get a little better. we are hoping things turn around. we are looking for ways to make it better.
i was watching oprah one day when she was interviewing women around the world, and because it was a hot topic then, oprah asked a quesiton about universal health care to each woman in each area (all of the countries had universal health care). one woman was a doctor and made an interesting statement, no matter of your politic – she said, “it’s not an industry to us to take care of our sick.” the industry part is another post. but “our sick”? when’s the last time that our country acknowledged those who were ill or needed medical attention as our own and not as a they, those with health problems, those that need to find ways to get care they need?
there are lots of theys in my life, i’m sure. i remember, when i served as a youth director, it was quite clear. i’ve never had a natural gravitation toward teenagers. i wasn’t one of those youth directors who just had a great teenager-connection device. i’d go to cluster with other youth directors and hear stories and generally be annoyed with kids. but my kids? no way. sure they did things at time that would keep me up at night, but because they were “mine” there was a little more grace to be given, a little more effort to be made to make things better. somehow, when at cluster events, i felt like mine were different, they were better.
i just wonder, what it would be like if i found ways to make all my they’s into we’s? (and how exactly does one use proper puctuation to pluralize plural pronouns?! without apostrophes, it’s “wes”.) i wonder how i might treat people differently if they were (see! there i go!) part of my we. i mean, we all have a common we. we’re just people, trying to make it. we all want the best of things and are doing what we know as best to try to make that happen. we were all made in the image of a God who loves us all. God loves that they just as much as he loves this we. so maybe we should too.