Thoughts, observations, fun language facts, and random ramblings of a U.S. expat living in the Netherlands.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Find the beauty
Since I started taking a new shortcut to drive my son to school in the mornings, in an attempt to avoid most of the rush-hour traffic, we’ve had the occasion to see the Methadone Bus a few times a week parked at one of its regular stops in the city. It took me a while to realize that that’s what it was, this somewhat vague, large white vehicle with only a couple of tiny windows high up on the sides. If you look carefully, you’ll see Verslavingszorg (Addiction Treatment Services), in small print, on a rather (intentionally?) obscure spot on the side. Once I realized what it was, and noticed my son giggling as he watched the somewhat strange characters feverishly running to get on it before it left again (and the euphoric ones getting off of it), I felt I should explain in serious terms what it was and why it was there. At first, I just kept it short. ‘That’s the Methadone Bus, and people addicted to heroin can go and get their shot so they feel better.’ I might have even taken an overly light-hearted, and - dare I say it - humorous approach at times, giggling along with him, dismissing it. I realize now I was trying to take the sting out of it for him, glossing it over in my attempt to shield him from the terrible reality.
Lately though, I’ve felt a more detailed explanation was called for, and have been trying to collect my thoughts about how to explain it. He beat me to the punch.
Although he still giggled quietly every time we saw it, one day last week he was obviously curious enough to ask about it. ‘But Mama, what is methadone? Why do they need it?’ I explained what it was, why they needed it, and emphasized in a serious tone that that’s why people should never start taking heroin. Because in most cases, it’s for life. A horrible life, and for these people, rarely a very long one. I told him that these are people who have to beg, borrow and steal to feed their habit. And that sometimes, the world is just really a terrible place.
I almost want to apologize to him for the state of the world today, or rather the way it’s always been. My husband’s theory is that the misery and tragedy have always been there, we just know more about it all now thanks to modern communications technology. And of course, the horror-hungry media.
I realized it’s not only my job as a parent to educate my kids on the horrors of the world, protect them from evil, shield them from misery, but even more importantly, it is also my task to teach them how to find the beauty. Oh, and to be kind to others, to be a good person and to find a way to be happy.
This is a major challenge in today’s world; this should not be news to anyone. After all, how do you teach kids today to find the beauty in life when we’re all constantly being bombarded with bad news, somber outlooks and human cruelty? The events in Boston this past week brought this home, yet again. How do you explain to your children why people do what they do? How do you teach them that we don’t always know why, and even if we do, that it doesn’t usually make sense?
I am suddenly reminded of those pictures we used to make in arts and crafts in elementary school. First, you drew rainbow-colored stripes using pastels, and then painted over the entire sheet of paper with black paint. When it dried, you scratched or scraped a picture into the paint, exposing the pretty colors underneath.
Though it is getting harder and harder to find, there is so much beauty in this world. I’m not such a firm believer in ‘see the positive side of it’, because often, there simply just isn’t one. So if there isn’t a positive side to every negative story (see picture above), look for the positive elsewhere. Nine times out of ten (or nine-and-a-half times out of ten), you’ll find it in the simple things, the things that are around us every day and that we too often tend to overlook.
I envy children and their innocence, and yes, their ignorance. Their seemingly boundless joy at the simple things, the things that are all around us and that we have long forgotten or fail to acknowledge.
The beauty they see and find is there; in fact, it’s everywhere. These days, we just have to look harder to find it.