When you’re a child, you’re only playing one role. This role has very few responsibilities and at the end of the day you are blissfully unaware of the many other roles everyone else plays around you. Your only concern is yourself. And that’s okay. Be a kid and learn about yourself first.
But as we grow up, or as I’m growing up more specifically, I start to realise how my world view slowly shifts from this magnifying glass on my own perspective to the thousands of possibilities that I barely graze upon every day in my life. And suddenly there’s this epiphany, everything has always been the way it was, but the way you see it changes everything that has been and is yet to come.
Let me make more sense. I’ve always grown up, most of my adolescence, as first and foremost a student. My sole task was to learn. And frankly, I was a haughty learner. I knew I did this one task of my childhood well. But as I’m growing older, I realise that my role as a child is also surrounded by other roles in society.
Let’s take the role of the waitress serving me ice-cream at a cafe. One day I found myself in the shoes of the waitress and realised how tough such a job was. I realise that I previously only saw the surface of things. Being a waitress meant standing eight hours in a day and being personable and having to deal with the not-so-friendly customers (some times). Long hours of waiting for service changed from impatience at the slow and stupid staff, to an understanding that a place may be understaffed and that those who are stuck with their shifts on that day have to put in twice the effort with half the gratification from customers.
My mother has had a number of tough jobs, jobs she shouldn’t have had at her age. Some of this includes cleaning and clearing up after university undergraduates in the campus canteen. It pains me, ’cause I was once in that role of being an undergraduate and I have had my fair share of leaving trays behind on the assumption that the cleaners are responsible for keeping the tables empty. It pained me when she came home to gripe about it. And it made me realise that we, as individuals of our society, take far too many things for granted than we probably should. I’m talking about university students who probably have had a sheltered upbringing, silver spoon in one hand and a nanny’s hand in the other, forgetting that the rest of society needs to clean up after their lunchtime messes just to get by.
It’s so easy for us to point a finger at institutions and the government, but sometimes we forget that when we point that one index finger at them, the other four fingers point right back at us.
Lately, my country has been going on about the educations system, about tuition versus government schools and the lot and the sad thing is that the first individuals they blame are the “sad lot that call themselves teachers”. If anything, I feel that these individuals are looking from a “child’s perspective”. But, I somehow don’t blame them. ‘Cause if I were at that end of the spectrum, I too would probably criticise a role which I have yet to experience myself. But, the difference is that I’m not, so I won’t.
One recent experience that was eye opening for me, that happened just yesterday and that I would like to share, was when one teacher was calling a parent in the staff room. The phone conversation could have been easily ignored on my end, if not for the fact that it was evident that the teacher on the phone was grappling with the father, trying to negotiate her way into some sort of mutual agreement towards his son’s safety. (I think I wrote a very similar experience once on a very different eavesdropped conversation).
In this situation, the boy had gotten himself into some accident and had been sent home where the father was now (I presume) scolding the teacher for not having called him immediately to explain the situation and to have taken better care of his son. The entire time during this conversation, I suddenly found myself not in the shoes of the child nor the father, but (in a rare and new turn of events) in the shoes of the teacher. I suddenly respected her role far more because I understood that while she probably did not want to face this boy’s father on the phone and be yelled at, she still picked up the phone and took the initiative to do so. But why? This action made me realise that she was genuinely concerned about the health of her student. And I think we forget about this all the time with the education system. Sure, teachers will harp on grades and on answers and on homework – but there are also teachers who genuinely care. The entire time on the phone the words she spoke were not accusatory, they were never in anger, instead they were composed and (in an almost amusing manner) she placated the father as if he too were a hot-tempered student of her own.
So, sure, we all used to be children who saw the world from our perspective. But I realise, as I’m growing up, that part of growing up is to not only see things as we see them in our eyes but to go beyond ourselves and find compassion in the other roles that exist in the world. If not, then we’re still just children, sitting in ourselves, minding our own businesses, oblivious and unaware.
Those are my thoughts for today..