Ian McLaren: “Let us be kind, one to another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”
On New Year’s Eve, we decided to make mochi (a chewy rice cake that gets baked). The rice must be cooked then mixed with a dough hook in the mixer until it is a gelatinous globule ready to be shaped and baked. While we were waiting for the globule to form, the mixer bucked itself right off the counter in a thunderous clatter, breaking off a knob handle in the process but miraculously still running, even as it fell and hit the floor.
The mixer is almost 15 years old and the little brittle plastic knob shattered into several pieces, unable to be repaired. Even though a replacement knob could certainly be ordered and slid into place, it would never quite match. The new knob would be shiny and different than the rest of the mixer, a constant demarcation of pre- and post-fall.
Even when things heal, there is a scar, a mark or a memory of where we were wounded, a reminder of what has passed. With material objects, I find this can be charming, a map of experiences, a story of the past. The crunch in my car’s tailpipe? That was from my birthday when my one friend was driving and backed into that little wall by our other friend’s new house. The crumpled pipe reminds me of my birthday and the beautiful hike we took that day, and having friends that I trust enough to drive my car and love enough to forgive when they crash it just a little.
I have a beautiful pottery mug that my grandmother picked out which I saved from the rubbish bin. It was supposed to be thrown out because there is a sizable chip out of the rim, one momentary slip in the sink. But it is a little piece of my grandma whom I never knew. I can imagine her hands picking it up and bringing it home. I can hold something she held, I can have a mug of tea from a mug she thought beautiful. I am simply careful about the broken part.
We do not move through this world unscathed. We get our chips. We have places we’ve been shattered. And even when these areas are repaired, we carry them still. There is no erasing our history. Every human being has dents and scrapes and scars.
And yet, I find the expectation to show up shiny and new to be painfully prevalent. The idea that we should be perfect in every moment a crushing pressure. Per popular culture, even our laugh lines should be erased, no history of joy nor sorrow to be displayed, no demarcations of pre- and post- life’s experiences.
My request is this: be kind. Be a little careful with the broken parts. Remember we are each bearing scars, no matter how well we hide them. If I can remember to be careful sipping from my 40-year-old chipped mug, can’t we apply that same care to fellow humans? Just use awareness and a be little gentle to them?
This does not mean we allow ourselves to be badly treated. Of course not. But we speak up with compassion, not succumbing to hate another (especially ourselves) and remember that our actions have a history. Sometimes we forget how to respond to each other and instead react, triggering another reaction in return. And so on and so on. But remember, amidst all of this, that rarely are we going through life intentionally doing a crappy job. In fact, most people I know are trying really really hard.
I want to stop trying so hard and instead be soft. To use grace as I move through the day, and kindness if I or someone else is operating out of a wound. Not try to fix it or pretend it isn’t there. Simply know that they we each are vulnerable, we each are holding up our hands to the world in supplication, making our own offering of ourselves, of our best.