Friday, 1 August 2008

Life Teachers: To my Aunt Anne


Brazen's on VACATION! Driving to the Outer Banks, North Carolina to visit with my extended family for beach shenanigans and bonding.

Today's teacher-ly message is in regards to a recent national news story. Unless you are a hermit, you have no doubt heard about the church shooting that occurred in Knoxville, Tennessee last week.

I avoid discussing the media's barrage of fear inducing coverage, but this story is personal- since the church you see at left- is the one her favorite Auntey and Cousin attend.

I was riding in Eddy's Sweet Corn Challenge the Sunday it happened. After completing one of the hardest bike rides I have participated in as of yet, I was feeling on top of the world in an "I want to pass out" kind of way. When I got the phone call from my mother, I answered with a breathless and exuberant:

"Hey Ma!"

"Hi honey..."

I went into a full on account of the bike adventure I had just partaken in- too excited to pick up the hesitant undertones. She patiently listened.

"And the last five miles were UPHILL, and my legs were screaming... and they have fresh sweet corn, it is SO good..." I won't elaborate on my boring small talk here, I can be a self centered individual. But eventually I got around to: "So how are you?"

(Reactionary silence)

The first thing she chose to say was the disclaimer:
"Well... first off I just want to say that Aunt Anne is OKAY..."

She then explained via quivery voice that my Aunt had been at Sunday service during a shooting, she knew at least one had been killed...

And it's funny because as she continued to explain that my Aunt was fine, and my Cousin wasn't even there, I still thought fleetingly: But is she OKAY? Like the words weren't enough to make me believe it.

So we're all hoping this upcoming vacation is good for my Aunt.

And since it's been a topic around family dinner tables in all the extensions of this Brazen Family- I've done a lot of reflecting about this. One sentiment I've heard repeated from my own family members, as well as on the news is:

"I just don't understand how someone could do that!"

Usually followed by:

"He's such a sicko."
"I hope he gets what's coming to him."
"What a monster."

You get the picture.

And as the wheels churn in my brain- as they often do. Well okay... ask they always do, I think of my favorite Auntey's sentiments as a psychiatrist who has her own practice in West Knoxville.

"No one is crazy in the classic sense. People like to simplify the situation into "normal and not normal" but there is no such thing. No one does "crazy" things. They only do things that make sense. So if someone murders strangers- there must be something going on in their minds, to make that action 'seem like the best option.' And that's how you heal people. You must see things how they see things. As soon as you say: 'I just don't get it...' you detach yourself, and allow the problem to continue."

She said that to me when I was in High School. And I never forgot it. I find it ironic that the same woman who shared this knowledge of the human condition with me, was in a church last week while a man opened fire on people he didn't know. A lesson she taught me, and that admittedly I'm hoping might come across in this post.

Compassion isn't just for New Age sissies. Professionals with PhD's in psychiatry happen to think it's the only way to make lasting change in the human condition. Thanks Aunt Anne. Thank you for being the best kind of teacher there is- the kind who teaches by being. Being the change you wish to see in the world.

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