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Between the Lines

Kim Anderson, MSW, LCSW, ATR-BC

M/other's Day

My mother always wanted me to write “nice things.”

“Truth isn’t always nice, Mom,” I would reply.

“You should write children’s books,” she decided. She maintained that notion and I never had the heart to tell her that as much as children love fantasy and magic, they crave truth whether it’s nice or not.

This, too, has always made me Other. Like the little boy in The Emperor’s Clothes, I have often spoken truth when no one else wanted to hear it, let alone have the audacity to say it aloud. I understand now that does not make me courageous or even conscientious, but it does disentangle me from the vines of silence, the kudzu of apathy disguised as politeness.

I recently wrote about apathy:

In order to change, we often need something to push against (Einstein and Newton both had some notions about this) -- not only because of the amount of energy needed to move mountains (or people) but also because folks generally need to feel it's worth their while to change. Resistance can be a measure of this worth. When Resistance shows up, he may be late, but he’s there and everyone knows it. Agreement arrives on time and with a smile. She doesn’t want to bother anyone with her opinion.

What I find more alarming than either resistance or agreement, is Apathy. To me, Apathy is dangerous. Apathy is an invisible but deadly force – rather like carbon dioxide -- the result of something potentially toxic. Resistance is difficult to move, but when it lets go, it gets things done. Agreement happily joins in to help. Apathy just sits in the way, watching while both good and bad things happen, refusing to take credit for either.

Inadvertently, my mother is responsible for my disdain for apathy. She wasn’t one to sit long in one place nor was she one to give up, especially when it involved righting a wrong or confronting the indifferent. Mom was especially obstinate when it came to life-time warranties. If something broke she wouldn’t rest until the life-time warranty was satisfied and her twenty-seven year old product was replaced.

When I was born, she assumed I was under a life-time warranty as well and she intended it be a long life. She was tenacious in fighting for my medical rights despite the many times she was met with passivity or indifference. My condition was something “other” than they had seen before and treatment was crude, experimental, and likely ineffective. My mother, however, persisted until someone took action. Like the little boy who outed the Emperor, Mom confronted naked neglect and apathy and insisted I be treated, my life-time warranty honored.

I believe this is what we do each day as helpers and healers. We honor the life-time warranties of those who may not know or be able to access their rights or resources. In doing so, we also honor the elders who came before us.

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