artwork by Linda Cassels

Have you ever wondered why we react to negative feedback in a certain manner and when people are randomly kind we question that?
I was chatting to a friend last week and at the end, I gave her some of my vessels. Her response was “Why?” I was struck by the question and it made me ask myself why did I offer it and why did this question feel so uncomfortable. I recalled another of my friends questioning why I was so “friendly” towards young people. This got me thinking, ‘Why, really?’ why are we so quick to judge and react to positive behaviour and we don’t question negativity that easily.
It took me down memory lane and I remembered that growing up as a child we never really had people to encourage us outside of your family, except for those whom you admired, but it did not necessarily mean that they would encourage you to be your best self, no at times this gave them the green card to behave badly; be obnoxious, condescending and classist in a way. The worst one’s were the kids whose parents worked and they had a steady income. We all wanted to be them. but most of us could hardly afford a new dress unless it was your Christmas dress. That was the only time we could become excited about anything in the future as nothing else was almost guaranteed other than most likely new clothes for Christmas.

Our society was so divided that most young people did not make it past the middle-high school, as many of them had to go find jobs to help the family or raise their kids (teenage pregnancy rate high). Which means the cycle of poverty continues. Granting that we lived a depraved society where the government basically enacted poverty to the black people for being black! Having ideals of been a tv actress was just that, dreams. For those who managed to finish high school and attain further education, it took tremendous self-belief and sacrifice as part of your make up, as there were so few examples of what success looked like. In my youth, I had 2 people who actively encouraged me, not by telling me what to do but being brave to make the best of what they had for better life quality. We did not have the luxury of the internet and cellphones. We relied on what society taught us and in my case it was you are black, you’ve got no chance. Gosh most of us did not even have a house of your own let alone electricity! This did not stop some to try to find a better life. Knowing how I struggled to accept me for me, I decided a few years ago to be an encouragement to young people. Yes they have access to everything, but positive confirmation from someone outside of the family is helpful and sometimes life giving as not all our aspirations lines up with what is expected from you as an accomplishment. At times it is hard as a parent (especially single parent which i am one of) to be the constant source of inspiration for their children, and most of them do, but society is made up of many components and having a positive influence in the larger society help to build a better self-image in the developing young person. Its not say that what teens learn in the home is not important, it is of utmost importance, but having examples in the community reaffirms what we teach as a society. What we learn in the house is important but so too is what we see outside of the household.

When we are met with kindness we reciprocate kindness, self-worth and possibility. Our lives are interlinked, no matter how strong you are as an individual but if your collective is not the chain will soon collapse. what did I learn? I learned its important to support each other, its okay not to know everything and that it is only by looking and seeking that we find the thing we miss. It teaches me that no matter your station in life there is something to learn from everybody irrespective. Worthiness is not ascribed to a certain type we are all worthy. Knowing your worth is more difficult to internalise but it is not necessarily the truth. Having access to people is what makes us human and that there specific requirements for these qualities. Being true to yourself with ease is an elusion as there will always be those who question you.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

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