Tuesdays with Ana: Loving our neighbor (Advent Calendar, Day 17)

(Warning: soapbox ahead.)

Daughter of Discipline

Daughter of Discipline is finally available for sale on Blushing books!

(Disclaimer: I use the term “loving our neighbor” because this is a phrase commonly understood by many people. I am not preaching any religious agenda, and this is not an attempt to blindside you with religion. The words are a shortcut, if you will, to explain my message today. We can call it empathy, compassion, tolerance, opening our minds…any number of ways, but “loving our neighbor” was what worked for me today.)

Already it’s been over two weeks, and we’re nearing the finishing line of Ana’s Advent Calendar. I am a little sad and relieved at the same time. This is a lot of time and effort (thank you, helper elves Tara, Emily, Kathryn, Penny, and Kate!) and I will need to get back to focusing on my writing, editing, and other work…but I will miss the daily interaction. *sniff* I hope you’ll stick around after it’s over and join in on Tuesdays with Ana, weekend snippets, and other posts.

Silly Ana, thinking about endings long before they arrive, but what we’ve created here together is special. The sing-a-long was hilarious, wasn’t it? So many neat new songs and videos to enjoy (even if they did make the page blastedly slow to load). A neat story from Sunny, a fun write-along activity from Kate, and some thoughts from Renee about finding Christmas spirit. Plus, of course our lively debate on DD and its merits/shortcomings.

I love Leah’s comment that this is a blog where we talk about spotty knickers on Friday, spanking implements on Sunday, and Fred Rogers on Tuesday. 🙂 That, in a nutshell, is the spirit of Governing Ana.

I had many topics I wanted to discuss today, but each one felt not quite right. Christmas without the commercialism? The joy of grandchildren? How to create Christmas magic as adults, even single adults and/or without small children?

Maybe we will have time for those topics at a later date, but for today I want to talk about this: loving our neighbor.

We’ve already talked about compassion, making a difference, and helping out someone in need. That’s not what I’m talking about today. (Yes, you should still do it!)

Today, I don’t want you to think about the tangible, the material, the monetary, or the physical. I don’t want you to toss a few coins into a donation bucket and write off your good deed for the day (although of course you shouldn’t purposely refrain from doing so!).

I want you to do something harder.

What if it were you?

What if you struggled to raise three small children, your husband left you, you didn’t have a college diploma, and your landlord evicted you for not paying rent?

What if you discovered something about yourself that you would have to either hide for the rest of your life or be expelled from your community, or even face jail time?

What if everything you held dear, everything you knew to be true, everything you thought you’d believed in…turned out to be wrong?

What if you worked your entire life to uphold certain ideals and principles, only to love someone who made you question everything you thought you knew?

When I began my Bastia series with Becoming Clissine, I wrote as a labor of love and my tiny effort at social change.

You see, Clissa is a heterosexual girl raised in a gay world.

Let me hasten to reassure you. This is not a sexual politics post; nor is it preaching a certain agenda.

Instead, I want you to understand and experience, on a visceral level, what it would be like to live in a society where everyone you trusted said you were wrong.

In Bastia, heterosexuals are imprisoned, beaten, stripped of legal status, and thrown to “breeder” camps. Their existence is a shame to their family and country. Their very identity is a crime against humanity.

It’s the story of Clissa, a girl who falls in love with a boy, but it’s also the story of Karielle, the woman charged with breaking down Clissa’s defenses. Clissa is legally severed from her original family and placed with new parents, forbidden to speak of her old family, and treated like a child in an effort to re-program her according to the values of Bastia.

Part of my inspiration for Becoming Clissine came from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984 (both stories of dystopian regimes in which a society breaks its citizens one by one), but it also came from modern, real-life tales of adults inflicting such re-programming onto children.

Mercy Mercy is a documentary (Examiner article here and Danish Film Institute article here) of an Ethiopian child whose HIV-positive parents are told they have fewer than five years to live. Distraught, they agree for their beloved youngest daughter, Masho, to be adopted to a Danish couple. The two sets of parents meet, agree to continue contact, and then Masho and her younger brother are whisked away never to be seen or heard from again. Masho’s parents outlive their five-year prognosis, and in their unexpected health they move heaven and earth to regain contact with their lost daughter. From the first day, Masho’s new parents break down any attempt to express grief, distress, or even an ordinary childhood idiosyncrasy such as a tic.

Will you please watch this scene where Masho is sent away, hungry, from the dinner table? Watch how her new parents interact with her. At this point, Masho has already been denied multiple meals.

(If you understand Danish or Amharic, or you would like to watch even without knowing the languages, here is the first of six parts available on youtube.)

In the end, her new parents abandon her to the Danish equivalent of an orphanage, without ever contacting Masho’s Ethiopian parents who have fought Herculean battles to find out whether their child is all right.

After I had planned Bastia for an entire year, I watched this documentary just before writing. I was sickened at the kind of brainwashing adults feel appropriate to impose on children taken from other countries and families, all in the name of “rescuing” them.

And so when I wrote Becoming Clissine, I wanted my readers to understand, through a child’s eyes, what it feels like to grow up knowing your entire identity is an affront to everyone you love and everything you hold dear.

Am I talking about adoption? Sexual orientation/identification? Race? Class? Privilege? Xenophobia? Imperialism? Global inequities at a socio-political and economic level? All of these, and none of these.

At the risk of giving a spoiler, let me say this:

Karielle lives every day of her life trying to follow the values of Bastia, but she is not a blind robot. She draws the shattered Clissa close to her, pouring out all of her love and wisdom.

In the process, both are changed.

Karielle (and her partner, Soris) is one of the favorite characters I’ve written. (So much so that their stand-alone short story prequel will be featured in Milestones, a DD anthology with Alta Hensley, Sue Lyndon, Renee Rose, Cara Bristol, Jade Cary, and Celeste Jones.) She struggles to live a life grounded in moral and ethical principles. She does, not just what her society says is right, but what she feels is right.

When she comes to love Clissa as her own daughter, her thoughts about right and wrong change.

Yet the irony is that Karielle grows, learns, and changes because she has committed herself fully to living an ethical, moral life. As we grow, our concepts of “what is right” also changes.

Today, I ask you to open your hearts. Sit with yourself, examining your heart and mind. In what way could you find compassion, tolerance, and understanding for someone you might have judged?

In what way can you show love to someone you have dismissed as not like you?

In what way can you place yourself in the position of someone who must face daily opposition simply to live an authentic life?

Today, I won’t ask you a specific question. This is an intense and personal post, and your response may or may not feel safe to share in a public setting. Instead, I’d like to open up discussion to anything you’d like to say in response. There’s no need to list your good deeds or say that you are a good person, just an invitation to share what might feel comfortable for you.

For me, today I will take to heart the words of Paul who has shared his story. Instead of being bitter that he had a difficult childhood in a foster home and children’s home, he created magical Christmases for his younger sister and nieces and nephews. Next week, I’ll tell you the story of my Christmas at an orphanage and how fiercely I wish for all children to have equal rights. I struggle when I watch children, especially those in my extended family, who are spoiled rather than taught to be good citizens. But for now, I’ll only say that Paul’s message has reminded me to open my heart with gratitude for what I have. To not silently decide someone is undeserving because he or she has more than I had, but to give freely of my love, understanding, and care. We are all deserving.

How about you?

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153 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: Loving our neighbor (Advent Calendar, Day 17)

  1. Michael says:

    Wow! What a way to start the day. Ana, you have me emotional, thinking, planning and ardently wishing we all loved our neighbors and all people in a pure, selfless and open way. And not just at Christmas but all year round. I have moved “Becoming Clissine” to the top of my reading list, and added “Mercy Mercy” to my viewing list. I can tell this is a very personal post for you, and your emotion is infectious because I am now feeling it too. When words move a person that is a sign of a great writer who touches vast number of people in a deep and personal way. You, Ana, have deeply affected us in a thought-provoking and deep way. Thank you. You make me want to be a better person.

    Also, Paul’s story is amazing, and he is a good man whom I am honored to call friend.

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Michael, you always manage to make me smile and you’ve flipped it over today and turned it into a smile with tears, I guess in my world, I am not used to men who care so deeply and understand not just women, but all people. I too have moved ‘Becoming Clissine’ to the top of my list (after I finish Daughter of Discipline which I just purchased this morning).
      As you so eloquently put it, emotion is infectious, and yes, Ana, as well as everyone here, makes me want to be a better person and for that, there are not enough thank yous in the world to describe how much my life is changing as you all give me strength. And PS, thank you Michael for restoring my faith in men named Michael 🙂 ❤

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  2. Ria says:

    Wow, this is difficult. I feel as if I am sitting by my Granny knee, being taught a lesson.

    Finding compassion, tolerance and understanding for someone different…this actually hits close to home and I find that it is harder for me to find these attributes with those close to me. My expectations, based on how I have structured my life, have taken a beaten. My sister, who now lives with me, is an artist. I am a programmer – very structured. These two life styles appear to be polar opposites. Time is very different for both of us. I have deadlines which must be met; but time for her is when she gets to it. We have already had a discussion on our expectations and have recognized that there needs to be adjustments on both sides.

    I do not have an answer on finding compassion, tolerance and understanding for someone different. I do know that it may be more difficult for loved ones than if you are remote from the situation. All I can promise is to try and keep an open mind, be willing to listen and ask for guidance (for me – especially in prayer).

    While I have had experienced so much on this blog: humor, deep thoughts, sing-a-long, I believe that this topic today is why I was guided to this site. It is a lesson I need to learn. I am hoping that I am a good student – only time will tell.

    Thank you, Ana. Today, no corner time for you, 🙂

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Ria I have had a similar experience with my brother when his wife kicked him out and served him with divorce papers and a restraining order out of the blue; the timing was suspiciously intentional, as he had just lost his job after getting a DUI.
      There was no thought as to how much we don’t really get along, I made room for him and he lived with us for a year. You’re right, it’s much harder when it’s family than helping out a stranger; we have all that history added to the situation and things can get tense.
      I wish you love and joy and peace in your heart as you struggle with your sister to find an even keel you can both live with. Don’t forget, prayer does work, and we are in the Season of Miracles, anything can happen during Christmastime. My heart is with you and I’ve added you to my prayer list. As you said, something brought you here for a reason, same as me, we couldn’t have found a better place to learn, laugh , and love than Ana’s place 🙂
      Hugs and prayers to you dear Ria ❤

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I should have announced that Joanne will be writing guest replies today (Thank you, Joanne!), but I see she’s already begun. But I want to say thank you, Ria, for a response that moved me to tears. Thank you for allowing me to be an instrument in your journey this year.

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  3. terpsichore says:

    Thank-you for expressing your deepest emotions and thoughts and sharing with us. No doubt I will be thinking of this post for a while. Honestly I do not know how to respond other than to say thank-you for sharing. I do know that as soon as my children wake I will give them big squishy hugs and tell them how much I love them, unconditionally, always and forever.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      I’m right there with you Terpsichore, this post has engraved itself into my mind and I have a feeling by the time this is over {no!!! sobbing} we will all be better people for the time spent here and the wisdom gained each day.
      You give your children the tightest hug ever, they already know you love them but you can never say it enough. Since I was a young child my Mom taught me to never leave someone you love without saying ‘I love you’ because you never know what could happen (it took the place of ‘make sure you always have clean panties on in case you’re in an accident :-D) but seriously it was the best advice I ever got, and I’m at peace with the fact that the last words my Mom and I said to each other were “I love you”… believe me terps, your children will always remember and carry your love with them everywhere they go ❤
      ps: if you have an extra hug, please give them one for me :')

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      • Marybeth says:

        Thank you for reminding everyone to say “I love you” to the ones you love. I tell my children and husband that all the time. Love was not expressed when I was growing up. I always felt the lack and I want my children to feel comfortable saying, and meaning, “I love you.” My 17 and 14 year old sons are comfortable telling me and my husband “I love you.” And, the best thing is they will give me a hug and tell me “I love you” in front of their friends. I love that! I did something right! Of course, my 20 year old daughter is lovey and dovey. I love that too.

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      • octoberwoman says:

        Joanne, that was wonderful advice from your mother. I know my parents loved me, but I don’t really remember them saying the words to me very often. But all my girls’ lives we’ve always said “I love you” before going to sleep and every time we parted company, whether I was running to the store or dropping them off at school. They are 20 and 23 now, and we still do this.

        Marybeth, I just read your post and we’re pretty much saying the same thing here! I agree, you’ve done something right raising your kids!

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Tara I wasn’t able to click on Mercy Mercy yet, I will watch it tonight but if I watch it now I’ll be nothing but a puddle of tears. There is so much to be learned from Ana’s post, I’m going to try my hardest to live up to the challenge of being a better person. Hugs Tara, love and hugs from me to you ❤

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  4. Michelle B says:

    😦 I have no word… or rather, maybe, too many words and no way to properly express them… I’ve said it before, and I say it again, I am truly blessed/privileged, to have grown up in a loving family whose parents and siblings are still alive and well and healthy…

    *hug*

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Michele I know what you mean about not being able to properly express how you feel about the horrors that exist in this world. God bless you and your Family, and I know in my heart your Family feels your unconditional love. And you are so right, you truly are Blessed to have all your Family still with you, as they are just as Blessed to have you in their lives. ❤ big hugs to you and yours 🙂

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  5. Emily Tilton says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to find one’s way to your blog, Ana, unless one has the gifts of imagination that seem to me the best way to begin to answer this challenge. It begins with the sincere inward effort to imagine what it would be like to be someone else, and hopefully it ends with outward action. Thanks so much for this beautiful post.

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Emily of the Pre-Raphaelite picture (one of my favorites), you couldn’t have put it better; I believe it’s a gift to be able to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, it gives you a renewed sense of gratitude for what you have and can make your heart grow at least 3 sizes, as Michael put it, ’emotion is infectious’ , so we do what we can to pass it along and before you know it, it goes around the world and comes right back to you. Hugs sweet Emily, I can feel your heart is already huge ❤

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  6. abby says:

    I look around as i set here….surrounded by so many blessings. No life has not always been rosy and cheery….but compared to many i have much to be thankful for. For me the best way to get to understand someone is to try a ‘walk a mile’ in there shoes. Not necessary physically, that is not always possible….but imagine yourself in their circumstances and how you would feel and act. I don’t always succeed at this, sometimes judge much too quickly and harshly. This advent calendar has been so much more than i expected…Ana…and helper elves…you have given us in ‘blog land’ a wonderful Christmas gift..thanks so much!
    hugs abby

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Abby that is truly the best thing to do, as you put it ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ and it makes all the difference when you can see things from someone else’s point of view. None of us are perfect, but it’s not the success, it’s the trying that means so much.
      And to add one more thing, I feel the same about this blog, it’s the best gift I ever received and I am so grateful to be involved, I can’t help but feel love for each and every one of you ❤ hugs back Dear Abby (sorry, couldn't resist :-D)

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  7. Janey says:

    I’m not listing my good deed, but rather, that of another which made me think. It’s just a small thing but can have far reaching effects.
    I was moaning in the staff room the other day about someone, about the way they had spoken to me, about their unrealistic expectations of the staff. Several people agreed with me. One voice though spoke up among us to wonder what he must be feeling to be acting in such a way; how must he have been treated previously to have such a way of speaking himself.
    That one voice showed true compassion, whereas mine was full of judgement. That one voice made me stop and think.
    I find it amazing how what we say can affect so many and make such a difference. I need to remember this.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Janey, you were right where you were meant to be that day, sometimes we don’t realize we’re being judgmental until we hear or see someone else showing compassion. It’s not that we think we’re better than someone, it’s just, in my opinion, that we get so caught up the difficulties we go through each day ourselves it becomes easy to forget that we have compassion in our hearts, it’s already there, it’s just that sometimes we need a little nudge.
      Hugs to you Janey, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble remembering how much power words can have. ❤
      ps: and don't forget to put yourself on the list and don't be judgmental of yourself, we are all here on the earth to learn and love, I think you've got those covered 🙂

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  8. Joelle Casteel says:

    With this post, Ana, my first thing I think about is my brother-in-law. a big can of worms that is. see, he’ll probably move in (with my mother-in-law) either “in the spring” or “within 6 months.” He’s very loud, very obnoxious, likes to rant, likes to make people uncomfortable- all while using his bipolar as an excuse for this behavior. Now I’m also bipolar, but I seek not to do what my bil does- my Master’s jokes about how my mood swings make Him crazy not-withstanding. Now I try to be sympathetic- his past is a mess of unstable mother, foster homes, moving, psychiatric drugs, unsympathetic children and school adults etc. I don’t know. my religion teaches that all people have inherent worthy and dignity, but thoughts of my bil make my stomach clench.

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Joelle, my heart goes out to you, having gone through the same with my own brother, I had to reread your comment to make sure I didn’t write it about my own brother because you described him perfectly. It is so hard to have compassion for someone who uses their problems as an excuse to get away with unacceptable behavior. I struggle with it every day when it comes to my brother, in fact before I took him in he was staying with my Parents and he would pit them against each other then sit back and watch the chaos he created. I try to do my best to help him as much as I can and he plays with my emotions knowing I’m an easy mark.
      You can only do what you can Joelle, try to have compassion for him but sometimes all the compassion in the world isn’t enough with certain people- you do not deserve to have that stomach clenching feeling, try to hold on and don’t feel bad that your feelings for him may never change, you, sweet Joelle, are doing all you can do, some people don’t want our help, and while we get physically ill with worry and stress, it rolls right off their backs…some people don’t want to be saved. Take care of yourself and your Master and know that you have tried your best, and above all, don’t forget, you are loved. extra hugs to you and remember we are all here for you. Feel free to email me if you need an ear or an outlet from someone who has been through the same thing. ❤ xox

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      • Joelle Casteel says:

        ah thanks, Joanne. You know, I think part of it that had me thinking about him this morning… I realized, in reading all this about caretaking (I’m reading a book specifically for caretaking after strokes because that’s what my mil had), is that when the move ends up happening- I pray that things make it okay there at least until spring; I can’t pray for that enough- I’m basically signing on to caretake bil. thankfully I’ll have tons of my Master’s help on that, but it didn’t occur to me until this morning, I’m basically signing on to caretake my bil to the end of his life. thankfully he has no physical impairment, but he’ll never be able to live on his own.

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        • Marybeth says:

          Joelle, it says a lot about you that you are willing to take on the HUGE task of caretaking for someone you dislike. God bless and I hope that your Master will be there to help you decompress.

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          • Joelle Casteel says:

            thanks, Marybeth. idk, I haven’t been feeling selfless. though I know, if I can just get him out, he may settle down a lot. If he settles, then I’ll have someone who has a better understanding. since our diagnoses are rather similar.

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Dear Angel, remember, we are all here for you to say what you want or not say anything at all. This is a very emotional time of the year, just know that you are loved and safe here in Ana’s World. Big hugs ❤

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  9. minellesbreath says:

    Oh Ana, This post made me cry. I am humbled by your thoughts and ability to give us what we need. A world society that does not judge but seeks to understand and love. Empathy and compassion is the response we should embrace when we are faced with someone who can’t speak of their journey in life, because of the emotional pain they have experienced.
    Children….All children who only wish to be safe and loved unconditionally. To never have the experience of those they love or trust letting them down and failing to catch them when they fall. Everyone should have a safe place to fall.
    Thank you for your eloquent words.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      minellesbreath, I cried too, and continue to do so as I take on the role of helper elf today, and your own eloquent words my dear, have hit me in the gut; empathy, compassion, unconditional love, these are all things every human deserves. Sometimes I wish I could wrap my arms around the world and make everything better for everyone. And yes, everyone needs a safe place to fall, I feel Blessed to have landed right here at a time I needed someone to catch me.
      Hugs to you minellesbreath, although we may not be able to save the world right now, we are all Blessed to have found each other here ❤

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  10. M. Palmer says:

    Your post was very touching, Ana. I am always amazed at the number of people who are so quick to judge, to criticize first, and ask questions later. During this time of year when people are so concerned about giving just the right gift, the best gift you can give yourselves and others is the gift of compassion.

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    • JoanneBest says:

      M. Palmer, you hit the nail right on the head, compassion IS the best gift we can give ourselves and others, it can set off a chain reaction and before you know, it can reach around the world and come right back to us. Hugs and love to you and yours, remember M, YOU are a gift to more people than you know ❤

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  11. Erzabet Bishop says:

    Thank you for such a thought provoking post. Diversity and understanding leads me to write f/f and other topics that are not considered acceptable by most on the whole. Where I live, it can be very religiously intolerant and that rolls into how it can effect jobs and lives. My husband doesn’t always understand why I write but he knows I need to do it and is supportive.

    Different…we are very different. I am a driven workaholic that crams more into a day than I should. Writing, blogs, holiday gifts, baking, laundry, cooking, dog mom to a horde of wild furry monsters and a full time bookstore manager. I also write under another name as a music reviewer, horror and YA author. Life is crazy but I like to spin the plates. Hubby is more of a watch television guy and sometimes we clash. I have to work on my patience especially this month when my world is exploding and his slows down even more for vacation.

    In my YA world I am working on some pieces that deal with diversity and acceptance. One deals with sexual abuse and suicide. I draw from my past and hope it will help to show someone still in a dark place that there are people that care. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is compassion and understanding.

    Blessings and joy to all.

    Best,

    Erzabet

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Erzabet, I was wondering, were we separated at birth? 😀
      One of the only things different is that the bookstore I used to manage closed (It was the cutest little store called ‘A Likely Story’ but the economy wasn’t on our side) and I grew tired of managing one of the chain bookstores and their constant pushing of store discount cards as the most important part of the job rather than good customer service. Oh and I’m not a published writer (yet) but I can totally relate to so much of your comment- my hubby and I? Too many differences to name but I’m doing my best to learn to be patient and understanding without allowing him to destroy me.
      I look forward to finding your books , I love reading horror and YA books, especially when I learn something new, or see something from a different point of view.
      You’re right, compassion is the greatest gift we can give someone, and hopefully, receive some in return.
      Blessings and joy to you too dear Erzabet, I look forward to reading your books and it’s been a Blessing to me to have met you here, the most wonderful place in the world.
      Hugs ❤

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      • Erzabet Bishop says:

        Joanne, I think we must be. 🙂 Feel free to look me up or shoot me an email sometime. 🙂 erzabetwrites at gmail dot com. 🙂 I have had the most fun with this advent calendar and hope a good many of us will stay in touch. 🙂 Wish we had a Facebook Group or something. Ana’s Naughty Elves or something. 🙂 I’ll be the one hiding behind the tree. lol. 🙂

        House mostly cleaned but have not touched my new deadline. Freaking out…must come up with Valentine horror piece.

        Talk to you soon. 🙂

        Erzabet

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  12. quiet sara says:

    Ana your posts have a way of wrenching tears from me. You are truly a loving soul. I really have nothing to add except something I do like to say and you already signify this in all you do, “Kindness is always the right choice.” love sara

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    • JoanneBest says:

      quiet sara,”kindness is always the right choice” is something I wish more people in the world would adhere to…to me, Ana has been a life-saver in so many ways, I feel privileged to be here, I can already feel the changes beginning inside me from this wondrous world Ana has created. If I could become half the woman Ana is I would be so happy with my life. And yes, I too cry many a tear here, but they have a way of leaving me with a cleansing feeling,
      You too are a loving soul sweet sara, don’t ever forget that.
      hugs and love ❤ xox

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  13. JoanneBest says:

    Oh Ana, nothing I can add that hasn’t already been said. I am literally crying from reading your post as well as the comments. Whenever I see someone in need I do what I can to help while thinking ‘there but for the Grace of God go I’ or however that expression goes.
    We all need to remember we are blessed, a roof over our heads, some food in our bellies and friends/family to love, to me, that is all I pray for, for each and every person everywhere.
    Or in the words of the real Tiny Tim, God Bless us, everyone. ❤

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      • JoanneBest says:

        Thank YOU Ana, for including me and allowing me the pleasure of being a helper elf; you, dearest Ana, have and continue to have a powerful effect on so many lives, I hope you remember how loved you are, I believe if I look up the meaning of ‘love’ in the dictionary, your face would be there ❤

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  14. Tracey Horton says:

    Wow.

    I know that the root of judgment is pride–thinking we are better, we can do better, we know more, look prettier, my job is better, more important, my family is…. etc. usually followed by the thought “I would never do that” or “how can someone be…..or do….”

    Will be seriously thinking today ….

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    • JoanneBest says:

      Tracey, I have a feeling there will be a lot of serious thinking going on today, if you don’t mind I want to quote one thing you said out of context and switch it around; ‘we can do better’; we all CAN do better when it comes to learning more about compassion for others, spreading love and joy, maybe doing something that seems like no big deal to us, but could have a deep impact on someone else…something as simple as bringing in the garbage cans for an elderly neighbor, walking down the street and picking up a piece of trash someone else left behind, calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time just to let them know you’re thinking of them, asking your neighbor if they need anything from the store when you’re going food shopping….little things that don’t cost a penny but can mean the world to someone else. Not only does it make them feel good, but it makes you feel good too.
      Much to think about Tracey, thank you for reminding us that pride is the root of judgment, and as they say, ‘pride goeth before the fall’. Let’s all be sure to not fall, especially during the Season of Giving, when ‘giving’ doesn’t have to cost a cent.
      Hugs and love to you and yours Tracey ❤

      Like

  15. Ami says:

    I think the only way you can truthfully understand is to be involved in a situation yourself, or to become friends with someone who lives such a life.

    Little examples in my life, without going into any detail, are having a Hindu friend whose parents fled South Africa years ago; several disabled friends; a family member who is gay plus several gay friends; Jewish friends; relatives who were persecuted by the Nazis; two children who had younger lives you could write books about.

    We talking alot round here about “softening” and I think we have to soften and put aside any inbred feelings of discrimination and disharmony, and redefine our views and the way we perceive other people’s lives. We absolutely need to be more accepting.

    I wonder if perhaps we are afraid. I wonder if something scares us if it is not as we were brought up to believe. We must throw away our blinkered vision and truly learn to love.

    Hugs
    Ami

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Ami, you are so right, we all need to truly learn to love and accept everyone, underneath our skin we are all the same, we all want the same things, love, acceptance, respect and so on. I guess I was very lucky growing up, my Aunt always had gay friends around (it wasn’t until I turned 18 that she came out to me, but not anyone else in the family), it was natural for me to be drawn to the gay kids in school (I went to a public high school after 8 years of Catholic school), I’ve always been a quiet shy kid but the minute someone gave any of my gay friends being picked on I’d see red and while I don’t condone violence, no one messes with mine so there were a few football players who were quite shocked when a tall lanky shy girl punched them in the stomach, but it did it’s job and my gay friends were never picked on again.
      We need to spread love and joy, for we are all the same, people with feelings, we need to keep those feelings positive….spread hate and that is what you will get in return, so we spread the love and life becomes a joy to live.
      Hugs to you Ami, and thank you for giving me more to think about ❤

      Like

  16. Katie says:

    Thank you for sharing this very heartfelt post, Ana!!! I Oh I feel sickened having read your articles about Mercy, Mercy and Masho. Where is the love???? Where is the love!!!! Everyone deserves to be loved and to love. No child should be in such a situation. What can we do? We can do our best to try to understand and to care and to give love, one person at a time. We may not get it right every time. But gosh, a difference can be made. I will look for this documentary. It won’t be easy to watch, but it is important!

    I loved Karielle in your book! While she was helpless to do anything about the situation that she found herself in, regarding suddenly becoming responsible for reprogramming Clissa- she had no choice- she was able to wrap her in love, and help to make Clissa’s situation the best that it could be. Thanks Ana. Very moving post. Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Katie, I will make myself read about Mercy, Mercy and Masho, and I am very much looking forward to reading Clissa’s story. What you said,” What can we do? We can do our best to try to understand and to care and to give love, one person at a time” is the best advice ever.
      None of us can fix the entire world but as you said, one person at a time, then if they pass it along, before you know it, maybe it really can spread around the world.
      Hugs and love to you Katie, and thank you for sharing your words and advice ❤

      Like

  17. Thianna D says:

    Some are easier to spot, some are not. In fact, my eyes are opened more toward the ‘perfect child’ than to one who ‘looks in trouble’. For it is the perfect child who suffers where you cannot see. It is the perfect child who smiles when they are in pain, ignores their own needs, and is 10x more likely to jump off a ledge and have people wonder in shock “Why them? They led a wonderful life.”

    Perfection is an outward symbol of something messed up inside – whether it be a community or any individual person. Perfection isn’t normal.

    Like

    • Joelle Casteel says:

      I think too many people miss that message, Thianna. I know in many ways, until I was a teen, I managed to pull of much of the “perfect child.” sure, I started having counselors etc try to help me after suicide attempts, starting to abuse drugs etc. But I was less miserable after I started acting out.

      Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Thianna, as you and Joelle said, many people do miss that message, I’m guilty of that myself as Joelle pointed out, I was that same teenager, doing all those things until I started going to therapy, my only regret is I didn’t start earlier, before I got married.
      Trying to be perfect can blow up in your face as you keep trying to live up to it, it’s impossible to be perfect at everything, and as you said Thianna, isn’t normal. We are all a mixture of good and bad and everything inbetween, it’s up to ourselves to try and do the best we can and not beat ourselves up when we may not live up to our own expectations.
      Hugs and love to you both but I must warn you, I am imperfect, but my hugs and love are strong 🙂 xox

      Like

      • Thianna D says:

        Congrats to you, JoanneBest, for embracing your imperfection! I’m still working on mine. Logically I know I am far from perfect, but in the doing it still upsets me. I’m the type in school where if I got a 92 on a test, I failed.

        Joelle, I use online to do my ‘acting out’, my bratting. In real life it is much harder to do.

        And in a way, my imperfection at being imperfect grates at me. LOL

        Like

        • Joelle Casteel says:

          Interestingly, I think of bratting as something separate from acting out- for me that was about teenage rebellion taken to a strange extreme. but I do understand what you’re saying about online/offline. I just still tend to act out (although not quite as hard as I did as a teen) offline. my Master says I’m trying to pick fights. Although I disagreed with Him the other day- a Salvation Army bell ringer said “Merry Christmas” and in a nice tone I replied “Happy Holidays.” I actually wasn’t trying to pick a fight, although teen thought I was. I saw my choices as a) saying “Happy Holidays” and mean it in the spirit of her well wishing b) “you too” c) be rude and ignore her. I liked choice a

          Like

          • Marybeth says:

            Joelle, there is nothing wrong with “Happy Holidays.” If you are not Christian, saying “Merry Christmas” is wrong. Of your choices, I agree that a was your best bet.

            Like

          • Thianna D says:

            I’m with Marybeth. Absolutely no reason to say ‘merry christmas’ if Happy Holidays is what you say. When I feel in a particularly b^tchy mood, and someone ‘corrects’ my Happy Holidays phrase, I’ve wanted to say “Happy Fake Holiday created by an anti-paganite”. But I figure it isn’t worth it. So I just say it in my head 😉

            Like

  18. Anastasia Vitsky says:

    Joanne is writing guest replies today, but let me offer my heartfelt thanks to each one of you who has read this post and offered your love and understanding. We never reach a plateau where we can bask in our goodness or compassion or whatever, but each day we can strive to be a little more kind, a little more loving, and a little more whole.

    Thank you for allowing me into your lives this Advent season.

    Like

  19. pao says:

    Wow. Those videos are sickening… just so outrageous. This is a humbling post and a timely reminder to share a bit of love. Especially at this time of year lack and loss may be more keenly felt. I guess with life being hectic for a lot of people, it is easy to dehumanise people we come across and then measure them against whatever it is we have in mind… I haven’t been put in a position where I am given the opportunity to judge someone and make their life difficult or a position of power… but I hope I remember this when that happens.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Pao, it’s horrible to realize the atrocities that go on in the world, but as you said, this is a time to share love, to remember all we have to be grateful for, remember those we lost and pray that we can all live in a time of peace and harmony. It’s not easy these days with the way the world is lately, but I guess all we can do is try to be kind to one another and spread the love. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be if everyone did 1 good deed for 1 person and they passed it on? A world filled with love and peace, that’s what I want for Christmas. Oh and don’t worry pao, when the time comes and you find yourself in that position of power, you’ll remember, you have too much love in you not to remember. Hugs ❤

      Like

  20. Kelsey Summer says:

    You have me in tears again. You’ve really made me stop and think this season. Children are innocent and all deserve to be loved. Every single person (and animal) needs love and kindness. I agree with Thianna that sometimes it’s the “perfect” people who are more in need than those who outwardly show signs. Watch for the people who are always happy and smiling. They’re sometimes the ones who need a hug the most.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Kelsey you are so right, every child deserves to be loved, every person, every animal (said the proud owner of a 6 rescue animals) every one of us here deserve love, respect, and a big fat hug. As one of those previously ‘perfect’ people, I know how much my smile hid, the day I discovered a friend who saw past that smile and saw my soul through my eyes was the day I probably cried harder than ever, but they were tears of relief, to know that someone understood and recognized the despair I tried so desperately to hide.
      It doesn’t take much to change a person’s life Kelsey, a hug, a heart felt smile, just saying hello with a smile, it’s the little things that come fro the heart that mean the most.
      Hugs Kelsey, and thank you and Thianna for reminding us that not everyone wears their heart on their sleeves, and many times, a smile hides despair ❤ xox

      Like

  21. Leigh Smith says:

    So much to be thankful for – I always say I’ve led a charmed life. Has life always been perfect – No, but it has always opened another door. I’ve always been blessed with the ability to walk through that door and experience the new learning lessons that await..

    I try my very best to live by the Golden Rule. If every one did that, the world would be a better place.

    PS Ana, I’d forgotten all about The Handmaid’s Tale. It was an eye-opening tale.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Leigh, living by the Golden Rule is the best advice and you are right, the world would be a better place if everyone followed it. I love that you brought up the idea of how when a door closes another one opens, I tell myself that every day and I know that right now, I’m standing in the doorway. Bless you for reminding me that other doors sometimes are the door that’s been waiting for us to walk through.
      Hugs and love ❤

      Like

  22. sassytwatter says:

    Very emotional post. I read it and watched the link early this morning. I have contemplated what I wanted to write & share on Fika. I am so happy others feel that they are able to open up & share it must be cathartic in a way. Unfortunately, I am not comfortable doing so in such a public form. There are two things that have been in the forefront of my mind that are related to the post & I will spend time privately trying to sort my feelings & what actions need to be taken. As always Ana thank you for almost forcing us to sometimes stop and think. As hard as it may be it is important.

    Like

      • sassytwatter says:

        Thank you from bottom of my ❤️

        I came back to read through the comments & was touched my the amazing people you have brought together.

        Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      sassytwatter, I understand not what you’re going through, but just the fact that you’re going through something personal has me sending you love and extra hugs. And to add to what Ana said, I’m also a very good listener, while I am nowhere near Ana’s expertise, if there is anything I can do, if you need an ear, feel free to email me anytime ❤ extra special hugs to you sassy, and remember, you are loved xox,

      Like

      • sassytwatter says:

        Thank you Joanne. I also am a great listener if you need someone. I have been moved often to tears reading your comments everyday. I love your energy, outlook & enthusiasm.

        Like

  23. Renee Meyer says:

    Ana, your message is a powerful and much needed one in today’s world. Working with special needs children and senior citizens for the last 20 years has opened my eyes to the cruelty and pain in our world. This appears to be a multi-pronged problem. First, we have to actually see people, outside of our circle. Many times the homeless, hurting, hunger, and different people are almost invisible to the bulk of society. Once we see them, then we need to open our hearts and minds to accept them. Different does not have to be a bad thing, it can mean learning, excitement, stepping out of our comfort zones, and seeing the world through a different lens. The Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Compassion is a two way street, blessing both the receiver and the giver. Thanks for reminding me to truly see and respond. Sometimes we get so weighted down within ourselves we forget to look. Thanks for all the work you have put into this blog and providing a place to be ourselves this Christmas season. I pray everyone has a wonderful holiday season.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Renee, God Bless you for the work you do to help out special needs children and senior citizens; senior citizens hold a special place in my heart, even though it was only Family, I took care of my Mother-In-Law for 2-3 years, my Dad when he broke his hip, and my Mom when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago. It’s in my DNA to be a caretaker, and it gives me peace of mind to be able to help others, I feel like the elderly are mistreated and not given the respect they deserve. The quote you gave from the Dalai Lama sums it all up perfectly.
      I pray that you too have a wonderful Holiday season, we are all Blessed to be here, Ana has given me a Gift that I will never forget, all of you ❤
      Hugs and love Renee xox

      Like

  24. Blondie says:

    Wow! Talk about a tear jerker. This is a very important lesson to learn and to teach. I will be thinking about this for a long time. Have you seen the television show called “What Would You Do?”, I love it because it is a great teaching tool. But there is so much more out there. Thank you for opening up my heart and eyes today. God Bless

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Blondie, I know the show you’re talking about and it really is a great teaching tool. And yes, we all need to open our hearts and eyes today and every day, we need to make the Spirit of Christmas last all year long.
      God Bless you and yours, and extra hugs to you ❤ xox

      Like

    • Marybeth says:

      Do any of you remember the T.V. show “Joan of Arcadia”? It was about a young teenager who was having a dialogue with God. S/He would appear in the guise of every day people to Joan. I love the theme song of that show, “One of Us” written by Eric Bazilian and performed by Joan Osborne. Here are the words to the song:

      If God had a name what would it be?
      And would you call it to his face?
      If you were faced with Him in all His glory
      What would you ask if you had just one question?

      1-And yeah, yeah, God is great
      Yeah, yeah, God is good
      yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah

      What if God was one of us?
      Just a slob like one of us
      Just a stranger on the bus
      Tryin’ to make his way home?

      If God had a face what would it look like?
      And would you want to see if, seeing meant
      That you would have to believe in things like heaven
      And in Jesus and the saints, and all the prophets?
      (repeat 1, 1)

      Back up to heaven all alone
      No, nobody calling on the phone
      No, just tryin’ to make his way home
      Nobody calling on the phone
      ‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

      This show made a big impression on me. I always have the thought in the back of my head that whoever I am with is in the likeness of God. And, I try to treat them that way. But, I don’t always succeed, especially with my own family. I strive to be better (not perfect, lol).

      Like

      • JoanneBest says:

        oh Marybeth, how did I miss this???? I LOVED that show and the song too
        I try to think a similar thing, we are all God’s children, and deserve to be treated like that, just good old fashioned kindness and respect with some love thrown in,
        hugs ❤

        Like

      • Janey says:

        I never saw that show but I used that song for a good few years in Religious Education lessons to get children to draw God and write questions to him. Such a great starting point for them

        Like

  25. angieia says:

    Wow! Didn’t expect this, but it gave me a lot to think about. I live in the Midwest and I forget that there are people out there that are really horrible. No child deserves to be treated badly or adult for that matter. I agree with Kelsey!!

    Thank you for sharing Masho’s story.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      angieia, it’s easy to forget there is so much suffering around the world, we get caught up in our own lives which are not always pleasant yet if we look around, we can always find someone worse off than we are. Just treating others as we wish to be treated is enough to spread joy and happiness a lot more than we might ever realize. So if we all do that, eventually we can spread that joy and love until it grows enough to cover every person in the world, it may take awhile but in the end, it will be worth it.
      Hugs ang, know you are loved and prayers sent your way ❤ xox

      Like

  26. Holla Dean says:

    Well Ana, you certainly know how to make us all stop and think. I’m sneaking this in while working, so it’ll be fairly short. Sometimes the way we react to people who are a little different from us can be rather thoughtless without meaning to be. I know I’ve mentioned my son who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder (schizophrenia, bi-polar, schizoid-affective disorder – take your pick – the diagnose changes whenever he gets a new doctor). He can’t work at a full time job and has gone long periods without any kind of job. Upon meeting him for the first time, it is not really evident that he has a problem. He is often put on the spot when someone asks him what he does for a living. The answer is nothing, he’s on disability. But he doesn’t say that. Instead he says he studies the bible and is learning more about God and Jesus so he can spread the word. This actually causes more raised eyebrows than if he would simply say, “I don’t work, I’m on disability.”
    Thoughtless people would ask what the disability is even though it’s none of their business and certainly not something he would care to go into detail about.
    I guess I’m just saying that even simple, common everyday normal things, can cause someone to be uncomfortable. We all need to be more accepting of people who are different from us or from is considered the norm.
    I have watched “What Would You Do?” and as Blondie says, it’s a great teaching tool. It’s basically about strangers who stand up for someone who is being mistreated in one way or another.
    I will repeat what Blondie said – thanks for opening up our hearts and eyes today. Thanks for making us stop and think.
    Geez, so much for this being short!

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Holla, thank you for sharing your son’s story, I’m sorry you and he have to deal with thoughtless nosy people. This :”We all need to be more accepting of people who are different from us or from is considered the norm” is something everyone needs to realize and live by. You and your family are in my prayers, I wish you love and peace and joy and wonderful Christmas, the time of Miracles. ❤ xox

      Like

  27. thelongbean says:

    What a thought provoking post.
    Have you ever seen the film Persepolis? It is about a girl who has lived all her life in the west going to Iran and having to adapt to the more restricted regime.
    Remember, It was less than 30 years ago that certain parts of Europe were under very strict regime, where you could be arrested and thrown into prison for watching a foreign TV channel. In some countries, even today it is still illegal for a woman to drive a car.
    I do not mean this to be flippant, but a comedy programme may have also subconciously also given you some inspiration. Do you remember the 2 Ronnies and the saga where women ruled the country?

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Renee, you summed it up so beautifully as possible. ” Compassion is an energy we can bring to every interaction in our every day lives. ”
      If we all lived like this the world would be a beautiful place all the time,
      Hugs and love to you and yours ❤ xox

      Like

  28. P.T. Wyant says:

    I am intolerant of intolerant people.

    And yet, I find myself intolerant of certain things. I get impatient when people fail to keep up with me (not so much physically as following where my mind is going, or not paying attention when I’m telling them something or explaining it.) Oh, and other drivers. Gah! I’d enjoy driving so much more if I didn’t have to share the road with other people.

    Which always reminds me of my all time favorite bumper sticker:

    CAUTION! I DRIVE LIKE YOU DO.

    A great reminder to look in the mirror, because, often, the things we don’t like in others can be found buried deeply in ourselves. I think that we rarely recognize our own actions, reactions, and prejudices.

    And our upbringings have a lot to do with it. I grew up hearing “You brought it on yourself.” Yes, that taught me a lot about personal responsibility, but not much about compassion. (She/her and He/him can (and were) substituted for You/your.)

    I’m working on overcoming that, but it’s hard.

    And I have no idea where this rambling is going so I’ll shut up now and go back to gluing ornaments.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      the long bean, sorry I messed up your and renee’s replies, that’s what happens when I try to multitask 🙂
      I’m going to check out the at movie Persepolis, and find out what this 2 Ronnies is about.
      Thank you for reminding us that the state of the world is not as it should be, maybe with a lot of prayer and some simple good deeds we can spread some love and joy around, at least a little bit! 🙂
      hugs and love ❤

      Like

      • thelongbean says:

        Joanne, if you live in the US or are under about 30, you are unlikely to heard of the 2 Ronnies. They did a number of TV series on UK TV which were classed as “comedy” at the time. However in one series there was a series within a series where women ruled the world. Unfortunately I can not remember the exact title.
        As for Persepolis, I only came across it as I was asked to arrange could I help with a screening on the Greek island that I live and they needed it with subtitles as not everyone can speak English.It is a very interesting film and although a cartoon it has a serious underlying message.

        Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      PT, yet another apology for screwing up the order of my replies, that brother I mentioned up top keeps calling me trying to borrow $1000 when he already owes me $5000 and my Dad $6000- he keeps forgetting you need to attempt to pay back rather than keep taking
      But this is not about me, although I do understand what you mean about being intolerant with intolerant people and I don’t even want to start on the crazy drivers out there 😀

      Don’t drive yourself crazy (oh! unintentional pun!), go relax and make some Christmas ornaments, that’s something you are doing for yourself while bringing others joy seeing the beautiful ornaments you’ve made with love.
      hugs and love ❤ xox

      Like

    • Holla Dean says:

      PT, I am extremely impatient. To the point where it’s really something I have to work on. I get frustrated when I have to explain something twice. Geez, I already told you once, weren’t you listening.
      Your point is well taken; look in the mirror and we’ll find that none of us is perfect. We all have something we could improve upon.
      Merry Christmas!

      Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Intolerance of intolerance can be a good thing. Tolerating intolerance allows it to continue.

      BUT…too often we shame or bully intolerant people. We want to change/educate/love in the hopes of changing minds. Sometimes, a word of understanding and acceptance of a tolerant person can allow them to open their minds. Sometimes.

      Like

  29. Kitty says:

    this post made me cry. children need to be charished not neglected and abused and thrown out like trash. none of these should be allowed. it’s sickening to think that things like that can happen this day and age.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Kitty, the world isn’t like it used to be, when children were safe to play outside till the streetlights came on and neighbors helped neighbors because they wanted to.
      We need to step up and refuse to accept these horrible things that can happen, we can all make a difference, one good deed at a time,
      hugs and love sweet kitty ❤ xox

      Like

  30. chickie says:

    I had a long rambling comment written and my computer decided to restart itself without warning. Grrrr windows 8 needs to be spanked!

    Anyway part of it was it makes me so angry when people project their judgemental views into their children who perpetuate these things. It’s bad enough when an individual judges an entire group of people based on a common trait without regard to who the individual is. I work with kids and see this too much.

    Sometimes it’s funny. Most memorable was during the Bush-Kerry presidential election. 2004 maybe? Two kindergarten girls got into a cat fight, blood and all, over who the other CHILD was going to vote for. One said Kerry was going to take away all of her daddy’s money, while the other was irate that Bush doesn’t talk to “brown people” – that was just after Bush refused to speak at a NAACP thing.

    Other times it’s not so funny. It’s all about the haves and have-nots, color of skin, parent employment status, income… Sadly, I’m not talking about teenagers. These are little kids.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      awww chickie, sorry your computer ate your post 😦
      I think it’s terrible when parents pass on their bad traits to their children, and it seems as if it’s getting worse all the time, I wish Parents (some, not all) would let children be children and let them stay innocent as long as possible, sometimes I think there is too much pressure put on kids today; I wish for a simpler time, when all I needed was a book to read or a tree to climb to be happy.
      Hugs and love to you chickie, ❤ xox

      Like

  31. Katy Beth McKee says:

    Wow. I have so enjoyed the daily visits. Some days are just fun, some thought provoking. My neighbor has started with my own children. there were times growing up that I felt “less” than. I know my husband struggles with the way he is sometimes treated by his family. He (who is the 2nd of 7) has said my mom has two children and I’m not one of them.

    For this reason I always have worked hard to make my children to feel love and accepted for who they are. When my 2nd son came out a few years ago we were able to have an open honest conversation. I’ve also seen them pay it forward in the way they are open and accepting of others by being a friend to those they meet.

    Like

    • Marybeth says:

      Katy Beth, what a wonderful thing you have done. Accepted your children as themselves and taught them to do the same. I hope I am as successful with my children.

      Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Katy Beth, You sound like an amazing Mother, and you are passing it on to your children who will always remember the love you show them, and when it’s their turn, they will do the same. Hugs and Love Katy Beth, and don’t forget, you are a very special person filled with love. ❤ xox

      Like

  32. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    This post was difficult for me, and I’m struggling with my resentment. I watched the small segment of Masho at the dinner table and couldn’t understand what the child was doing that had upset her adoptive parents so much. I’m sure the language barrier between them is an issue, but what amazes me even more is that the parents believed what they were doing was justified. They had to. They knew they were being filmed, right? So, what on earth were these two thinking? Most people want to put on a “show” for the camera. They want to be seen as perfect, or as near to perfect as possible, and yet this couple had no compunctions about withholding food from a young, growing girl who was eating quietly and doing exactly what was asked of her. WTF? Even the father, Gert, said “You’re only saying that because you want to eat, aren’t you?’ Um, do you blame her? That’s the lesson you two are teaching the child. If you want to eat, you must say what we want, and do what we say.

    I think prejudice and intolerance are both learned behaviors. Those who harbor a prejudice against others because they are different, teach their children to feel and react the same way. They do so because they think their viewpoint is the only correct way of looking at something. They see “different” as wrong, or less rather than simply “not the same.” I’ll admit it isn’t always easy for me to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” Some people hold viewpoints that are difficult, if not impossible for me to grasp. And there’s the rub. Should I stop seeking to understand their differences because they are so foreign to me? Is it all right for me to be intolerant toward them for what I view as their intolerance toward others? I don’t know. A part of me says tolerance toward behavior I consider wrong is a form of cowardice or laziness, while another part of me cautions against judging someone before I’ve taken the time to understand their point of view. I don’t have the answers, and I don’t claim to. I can only do what I believe is right, and hope I’m not wrong.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Kathryn, this ” I can only do what I believe is right, and hope I’m not wrong” sums it all up; from reading your comment it seems to me that if you are doing what you believe is right, then you ARE doing what is right. Life is one big learning curve, we learn from the moment we’re born but develop our own ways as we grow older…no one is perfect, we do what we can and that’s what most important, trying.
      Hugs and love Kathryn, I choose to believe you are not wrong 🙂

      Like

  33. JC says:

    A very thought provoking post. I believe everyone had a certain set of beliefs that guide their life. A lot of times we become so set in our beliefs that we do not accept others who do not share them. I believe that we need to show love and compassion to everyone even if we don’t agree with everything they do. I don’t believe that a difference of opinions or beliefs is justification to treat them without respect and compassion.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      JC, in my opinion, you’ve got it right, we need to show love and compassion to everyone regardless; nobody knows what’s going on in someone else’s life, showing love and compassion can only do good and who knows, just one little ‘hello, have a nice day’ type thing to a stranger may just save someone’s life. Sometimes, what seems like a little thing to us can mean the world to someone who has inner struggles and is feeling down.
      Hugs and love JC ❤ xox

      Like

  34. Leah says:

    What a powerful post and a message that I really need to hear. It’s so easy to ignore, or quite frankly be annoyed or bothered, by those who are different from us. I’ve thought about this a lot with friends who have autistic children and the struggle they have.

    Watching that videos makes me want to snuggle my babies, which I’m going to do as soon as I post this.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Leah you are so right, it’s easy to keep our guard up and walk thru our lives, not as easy to drop our guard and embrace the idea of compassion and acceptance for all, I have to remind myself that and todays post certainly gave me just what I needed.
      Hugs and love to you and go snuggle your little ones, it’ll make you all feel the love and joy of the season ❤ xox

      Like

  35. Marybeth says:

    I guess I need to make my own post. College was a huge eye opener for me. I met, and became friends, with a gay man. He was one of my best friends in college. He was also a mentor. Though him I became friends with a diverse group of people. We called ourselves Wefpub (What escaped from Pandora’s Box) I have recently (last couple of years) connected with them through Facebook. I think that those 4 years gave me more than an education. Over those 4 years, I became open to many different viewpoints and lifestyles. Now I try to practice what I learned. I especially want my children to feel accepted and loved. I encourage them to have their own views, not to just parrot what their father and I say and think. I believe that if more people would open their hearts, we would have a much better society.

    Like

  36. octoberwoman says:

    I’m going to tell you a story today.

    Some years ago, there was a little girl, we’ll call her Tara, who was in the third grade. She was a quiet little girl, somewhat shy until you got to know her, and well liked by her friends and most of her classmates. One day, a new little girl joined the classroom, let’s call her Susan. She was loud, boisterous, nosy, and very insecure. She did not make – or keep – friends easily. She barged in on the other kids’ conversations uninvited, said whatever came into her head and went right out her mouth and other children shunned her or made fun of her. She had trouble paying attention in class, often disrupting the class with her behavior, and her grades were not good at all. But Tara was kind to her, and took Susan under her wing, and got mad at the other kids when they teased Susan, and told them to leave her alone, and insisted that her little group of friends always allow Susan to join them. And when some of the kids instead began to tease and pick on Tara, she looked the other way and ignored them, and said they must not have been her true friends to begin with. And Susan became a little more secure about herself, began trying to be friendly and not say rude things to the other kids, became less disruptive, began improving her grades, and began to be accepted by the other children and make friends with some of them. On parent/teacher conference day, when Tara’s mother sat down to talk to the teacher, the teacher did not want to talk about Tara’s grades or her progress in her academic studies. She just wanted to tell Tara’s mother this little story, and she began to cry as she talked about how Tara had made such a difference in Susan’s life and been such a champion for her, and how changed Susan was thanks to Tara’s steadfast friendship and support.

    I walked out of that parent/teacher conference unsure of what my daughter’s current grade was but with tears in my own eyes, and pride in my daughter for seeing the best in everyone she met, and doing everything she could to make other people see it also.

    Like

  37. TL says:

    This post is simply stunning, heartbreaking, and moving all at the same time. It breaks my heart to see children suffer, or told they are wrong simply for being who they are. Life is made up of so many differences, and they all bring something to the table. It would be such a wonderful place if we lived in a world without judgement.

    Like

      • TL says:

        I teach middle school and I constantly see kids changing who they are to fit in. We just had a conversation regarding this kind of thing in my gifted class. It breaks my heart to see those kids pretending not to be smart or not to like things I know they like just to fit in.

        Like

        • JoanneBest says:

          Bless you TL for teaching children the right way, I’m not going to touch politics with a Grinch-sized pole but I do think we need to ‘teach’ children, each child is different but oh how I remember trying to fit in and twisting myself into a pretzel to please people, if only I had a teacher who cared enough to talk to us as mini-people instead of another name on the roll call…. maybe I would have went to college if someone noticed a once straight A student was barely passing… or maybe if I went to college I might not be here right now 😀 I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason 😉

          Like

        • Irishey says:

          TL, from a current and former middle school mom – bless your heart! It’s wonderful you take the time to encourage individuality in your students. They need to know it’s okay not to be like everyone else, to explore and enjoy the things they do well and find interesting.

          Like

  38. catrouble says:

    Thank you Ana for sharing such a heartfelt post. Should have posted a ‘tissue alert’! I don’t have time to read through everyone’s comments but I will definitely be back at another time. I’m sure I will need tissues to get through the comments also!

    This post has brought up many memories…times I was judged, made to feel less than others, not being accepted for being me. I think those experiences caused me to be a bit more accepting of others.

    Add to that one of my dad’s favorite sayings if one of us made a judgmental comment of any kind…”You walk a mile in that man’s shoes before you even think of making any comments!” I have often been accused of being on the ‘opposite’ side of a debate because I can see both sides…again, not being accepted for being me. 😉

    Hugs and Blessings…Cat

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      ah cat, from one cat to another (because I am in my head :D) you better bring extra tissues, you know, just to be safe 😉

      I too had the memory pot simmering all day today, and it just really hit me hard after reading your comment, I too was terribly judged most of my life, in retrospect, it’s because I was an easy mark and didn’t stick up for myself; and I too can see both sides of a debate which should be a good thing but I get accused of “arguing just to argue” so I try to keep my mouth shut most of the time (then have to hear “why aren’t you talking?’… sometimes you can’t win…
      That’s one of the reasons this is the best place in the whole world, I feel like I belong, I feel real love fly off these pages at a time I need it most (I’m such a baby I’m crying now) and don’t get any ideas Ana, I’m not moving out once Advent is over 😛 hee 😀

      Like

    • Irishey says:

      Cat and Joanne, I hate that you ever were made to feel that being yourselves was not good enough. Me, too. BUT, I got some of my own back (as I know both of you did), and started defending not only myself, but others who were not being treated fairly. And then, I raised my daughters to defend the underdogs against all comers. Maybe that was the price we had to pay in order to come to the assistance of others who could not or would not defend themselves against bullies.

      On a lighter note… Oh boy, Joanne. You’re in for it now. Ana’s making a personalized corner with your name on it. You do know what that means, right?

      (Sshhh, I have to whisper this, but Ana has Mrs. Claus’ ear, and Mrs. Claus – she of the big wooden spoon – makes rounds of all the corners to find naughty little helper elves who’ve been parked there. Are you sure you don’t want to keep a bag packed for a quick get-away? No??!!! You’re sure? Sshhh! Okaaay, it’s your nose in the corner, and your other end on the end of the spoon. Maybe I still can help… Cat! Do you still have those extra soft pillows for those in need? Lol! Oops, I mean – Ssssshhhhhh!)

      Hi, Ana! How’s it going, hon? 😉

      I meant no disrespect to the seriousness of this post. It’s just so heavy, I felt a need to interject a little levity. I hope none of you were offended.

      Like

  39. Terry says:

    My parents grew up durning the Great Depression and World War II. They were very protective of me and did their best to keep the “monsters” that exists in our world away from our doorstep. We certainly weren’t rich but I never felt deprived of anything that I truly needed. When I look back, I realize how much my parents did without so they could provide for my brother and I. My parents were far from perfect but I always knew I was loved.

    Because of the way I grew up, I tend to think everyone is a good person. It still surprises me sometimes how cruel people can be to each other even though I am older and wiser. My husband sometimes shakes his head and fondly calls me naive. I’m not sure where I’m going with this other than to say I think if you see the good in people and treat them well many times they will respond back in kind. I try to be a positive person so that I don’t cause others to be unhappy.

    We may not be able to solve the problems of the world in this life but I am a Christian and truly believe that the people who hurt children, animals and the elderly with have a very horrible place in hell reserved for them. The people who lie, cheat, steal and are generally cruel to others have a slightly less miserable place reserved for them as well.

    Like

    • JoanneBest says:

      Terry I love you 😀
      My folks grew up the same, Dad was there on D-Day, I mean there in Normandy, and we grew up as you did, I also try to see the best in everyone and live the best I know how, with kindness and caring and love, and let people know I love them by telling them. I agree there is a special place in hell for certain people but not a one of them lives here 😀
      hugs and love ❤ xox and keep on doing what you are doing, it makes a difference Terry, YOU make a difference and don't forget it or they'll be corners and granny panties and wooden spoons… what do I know, I;'m a newbie 😀

      Like

      • Terry says:

        Hi Joanne
        My Dad was in the service also. He wasn’t at Normandy on D-Day but he was a gunner in fighter planes that fought in North Africa, Eastern Europe and through Italy. He stayed in the Army and fought in Korea as well. I am proud to say I have his metals in a shadow box on my wall. They really were the greatest generation.
        God bless your Dad for his service.

        You have your Dad’s courage or you wouldn’t still have your wonderful spirit and cheerful nature after the many trials you have told us about in your posts. I am so sorry you are missing your Mom this Christmas. I’m sure your parents are very proud of you.

        Like

  40. Penelope says:

    I wish we lived in a world where everyone treated others well, and however unlikely that may be I don’t think for a moment that it’s a naive thing to wish for. After all, what is the alternative? A wearying cynicism and an acceptance that negative things ‘just are’ and can’t ever be made better. I say forget that.

    It won’t happen in my lifetime, but I know that as long as hope exists, and love, and the kind of compassion that we have seen right here on this blog today, then such a world will someday come to be.

    Like

  41. pieclown says:

    Hi
    This is a very interesting post. It appears to make one think. I have. I am not perfect. I never will be perfect, but I will try to be better every day. I recall the song so I am starting with the man in the mirror.

    peace and joy
    and PIES!!

    Like

  42. laurellasky says:

    This is hard to write. When I was 6 yr, I was sexually molested by my father. This continued for 5 years. I was bullied in school and in those days (1950-60) you could not talk about it. When I was 15 I tried to kill myself and ended up in a mental hospital for a year. Again I wasn’t allowed to talk of any of it and to control my emotions. I over came a lot and became a nurse where I saw outstanding courage everyday. I especially remember a woman with out arms and legs. ( she used a straw to move her wheelchair) she came in everyday with a big smile on her face and had something nice to say to everyone. How can you feel sorry for yourself when you see such enthusiasm. It reminds me of a short saying ” I cried because I had no shoes and then met a man without feet.

    There is always hope. Well kids, tie a knot and hang tough.

    Like

    • Irishey says:

      Laurel, I hate that those things happened to you. No little child should suffer as you did. I won’t even qualify that with “at the hands of a parent.” That man was not being your parent when he molested you. I’d call that being a monster. I hope it isn’t presumptive and doesn’t sound patronizing if I say I am so glad you overcame all that trauma to become someone who helps others. I find it inspiring that you see the suffering of others as greater than that you experienced yourself.

      I love that saying you quoted, “I cried because I had no shoes, and then met a man without feet.” It really puts some things in perspective.

      I busted out laughing (I’m irreverent at times) at your last sentence! I can imagine just the perfect tone of voice with which this should be uttered – tough, crusty, salty, with a tinge of dryly cynical and sarcastic humor. Omg! Lol! Love it!

      Hugs to you. 🙂

      Like

  43. Irishey says:

    Ana, I wasn’t going to comment today. I know. Hush, or I’ll sic that turkey on you. He likes your sparklies a lot.

    I do want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings across a broad range of connected topics. There is so much going on in this post. I started writing my comment this morning as soon as I saw this go up and had read the linked articles and watched the videos. My comment took on a very long life of its own, I had something to say about everything. I deleted all of it, and stepped away.

    I am holding on to my words. Most of them really do not need to be spouted here. It’s not that I can’t or won’t talk about my experiences and opinions (Ana…hush). Everybody who has seen me comment anywhere knows I can pontificate. I didn’t want to revisit all I wrote and try to edit what would be helpful (not really the word I want here) from the rest of the chaff. Meaningful? No. It all means something, but perhaps only to me.

    Mainly, I simply was sharing a bunch of my stuff and giving my perspective about it. I’ve come back several times throughout the day, attempting to assemble a thoughtful comment. I can’t tell you how many drafts I’ve started and discarded. It doesn’t matter, because they all hit the recycle bin. Instead, Instead, it appears I’ve opted to wax long about nothing at all. Perhaps I’ll go try to reply to a few comments others have posted here.

    Loving your neighbor. What if it were you? All the many other questions and observations you posed… I’ll simply say I have strong beliefs about everything you wrote, and I’m fairly positive none of them would surprise you in the least.

    Hugs to you (and to you, too, Joanne!)

    Irishey
    The Blog Dodger

    Like

  44. Sherilyn says:

    Ana, I read this post early this morning, shortly before my granddaughter arrived to spend the day with Grandma. I’m selfishly glad I didn’t watch the clip of Masho until after she went home. I want so badly to find that child and make a difference for her. That said, I am heartbroken for the Danish parents as well (this may not be popular). They now have to live with their own failure where Masho is concerned. The child that they still have will always be a reminder. In some part of their souls, they will always know they weren’t the people they wanted to be for the little girl. I shudder to think how Masho will be if she makes it to adulthood. Her whole life has been one loss after another. I hope she manages to grow up as kind and compassionate as Paul.

    Paul, I admire you deeply. I hope little Masho has a role model like you at some point.

    I know I’m writing this very late and there’s a good chance it won’t get read. Nonetheless, I want to say that I have been fortunate enough to be trained in seeing both sides (like there are ever only two) of a situation. The most important things I have learned are:

    1. Rarely is anyone ever 100% evil. And they never see themselves as such.
    2. Personal responsibility is a hard skill to develop. It never gets easier, either. Look to yourself before judging someone else.
    3. Everything we say has an impact. Do your best to think before speaking.
    4. When you make a mess, clean it up.

    I am so grateful for having found this lovely community! My heart aches for all those in pain. I wish with all my heart that I could take some of it for you.

    Sleep well, everyone.

    Like

    • Irishey says:

      Sherilyn, there always is someone reading. I really like your comment. Much of Ana’s post is about not judging, in some fashion. I think what you said needed to be said, popular or not. I think we don’t know everything that was going on, or why. While we can have the utmost sympathy and even outrage over how Masho was treated by everybody who should have had her welfare at heart, we are not in a position to judge the adoptive parents or the biological parents.

      My personal opinion is both sets of parents and the adoption facilitating agencies failed this little girl. I also believe neither set of parents truly understood what it is they were getting into, and they were failed as well. They also failed themselves. Compassion being the overriding theme of Ana’s post, perhaps we should try to find some compassion for all the players in this tragedy, even those who don’t appear to “deserve” any consideration or understanding at all.

      I searched to find a recent update to see if she had been removed from the institution, but couldn’t find anything that said she had returned to her parents in Ethiopia, or to the adoptive parents, or placed in another foster/adoptive home. I pray somebody, anybody at all, involved with this little girl will do something productive, safe and healing for her.

      Like

      • Sherilyn says:

        Thank you, Irishey! I also searched to see if anything good has happened for Masho. I found nothing, just a video of her saying goodbye to her adoptive mother at the orphanage. It was awful. The mother looked twice her age; Masho was distraught and clingy. The cost to all these people was so horrendous! I am with you; I pray that someone will find a way to help that little girl. The ray of hope here is that the movie is all over the internet and there are many good people out there.

        Like

      • Anastasia Vitsky says:

        Judgment works up to a certain point and in certain circumstances. If I see a small child abused, I don’t want a democratic debate whether it’s okay–I want the child protected NOW.

        I personally don’t have empathy for the adopters, but other people certainly can do so. Governing Ana is not about groupthink, but about bringing together honest perspectives and respecting differences.

        I also personally don’t judge Masho’s parents. If a doctor told me I had only 5 years to live and that it was in my child’s best interest to make other arrangements for my child, what would I do?

        The blame lies, if we want to assign any, at the feet of the adoption agencies that make money from these kinds of transactions and the government and legal officials who allow it to happen. Yes, it also lies at the feet of excited would-be adopters who choose to ignore agreements. The Danish couple was counseled to lie to Masho’s parents and promise contact with the full intent of breaking the promise.

        But…because I did promise this is not a political post, let me also say that my intention was to focus on how we can uncover our own assumptions/beliefs/values that may be harmful to ourselves and others.

        Like

        • Sherilyn says:

          Ana, I have little sympathy for the adopters. I would bet that their original intent was good, if a bit selfish. They compromised their integrity to get the children. I have known people desperate to adopt who did the same thing. It always has the same outcome: it costs the parents, the adoptive parents and the children dearly. It’s easy to say the adults should have known better, but desperation makes all of us do things we come to regret.

          I find it shameful that the adoptive parents would dump a child who “isn’t working out” in an orphanage. They have made a mess and are making no attempt to clean it up, taking a convenient path rather than an honorable one. I am sorry for them, but not sympathetic. I am horrified and desperately sorry for the children who have gotten caught in the mess.

          Thank you for posting the link to ACT. I know where my Christmas donation money is going this year.

          Like

  45. laurellasky says:

    Irishey, thank you for the nice words. I actually have a dry, sometimes sick sense of humor.
    Laughing gets me through a lot of sh-t. My father was a sick, sob monster. If this happened today he would be in prison. I was mad at my mother for not protecting me but I forgave her. I had too otherwise I would be an angry , bitter person. I also understood where she was coming from. I will now leave you with these words of wisdom.
    The boy stood on the burning deck, his feet were all blistered.
    He tore his pants on a rusty nail and now he wears his sisters.

    Big hugs, laurel

    Like

  46. syd waldman says:

    I often tell myself to be careful, in thought, speech, action; there srr plenty of folks who have problems much worse than any of my worries. …
    Maybe it is a fine way to act at this season…
    May your issues/stressors be lessened as well.
    Stay warm.

    Like

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