Friday, January 6, 2017

Passing through Judgment

When I was little, I used to gather flowers from the field across the street and give them to my mother. She would always find a vase or a jar, fill it with water, place the flowers in it and put the arrangement on the counter or table. I probably did that once or twice a week for several summers. Most of the flowers would be called 'weeds' by many people, but my mother accepted them as graciously and lovingly as though I had brought her a bouquet of roses.

As I got older, though I can't remember precisely when, I learned that the dandelions I included in the mix were weeds. I learned that weeds were undesirable plants. So I stopped picking the dandelions. Then I overheard someone calling the purple and pink clover weeds, so I stopped picking them too. Eventually, I stopped gathering flowers altogether. The judgment of others had presented a different image of the plants and I learned to accept that opinion.

At one point in my life, I taught students who had social and emotional issues. Many of those students came from group homes. Many were also involved in the court system as delinquents. In much of our society, these young people would be considered weeds ~ problems to be plucked out of the general garden of our school environs and our neighborhoods. I found that these were the students I loved most of all. They were rough around the edges. They had unusual ways of viewing the world. For the most part, they were also beautiful and spirited and enthusiastic. It was someone else's judgment that labeled them weeds or problems.

As I got older, I learned that there were many different uses for the dandelion. I ate dandelion greens in my salad. I drank dandelion tea for digestion. At a friend's harvest festival, I even sampled dandelion wine. The beauty of the dandelion is not altered by anyone naming it a weed.

Like those dandelions, I watched my students' gifts come through. One could draw landscapes beautifully. One could spell any word after seeing it one time. Another was protective of our group. Another shone as a mother to her toddling daughter. I cultivated their skills and beauty with every attempt to counter the label they received.

I also found that I am not unlike those weeds ~ either the plant or people kind. Sometimes I am so common that I am overlooked. Or I am seen as invasive or somehow out of place. I have had to contend with my own internalization of those reactions from others. I often seek to hide, to not be noticed, to find a way to be considered the beautiful flower. When I do that, I also hide my own gifts from the world and that is not what I am here to do.

What part of you gets judged a weed? Do you accept that judgment? What gift does that judgment hide? Who have you judged to be a weed? Why? Do you see any gift in them? What do you think you miss when you judge yourself or another? What do you lose?

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