Thursday, April 12, 2012

Only When You Become They

I was 11 when my mother died tragically and suddenly from injuries sustained in a traffic accident. 

Many of the events that ensued were a blur; yet many were unforgettable.  One vivid incident was when a neighborhood kid confessed that he was afraid of my mother’s ghost or as we call it in Antigua, jumbee.

I was hurt. I was upset.  But mostly I was appalled.  My mother was nobody’s jumbee.  So I adamantly let him know that.

But even then, it dawned on me…..wasn’t it just a couple of months ago that I too was afraid of somebody else’s mother’s jumbee.  In fact, for as long as I could remember, up to that point, whenever anyone from the village died, I, like every other child (and probably some adults) would not walk in front of that yard, especially at nights.  And if the person was "evil" while alive, it could be months before we forgot and walked in front of the property again.

You know, I think that's when I stopped believing in spirits, but I must confess sometimes when I'm driving alone in the dark, I say to myself, "What would I do if a jumbee jumps in front of the windscreen?" Although I always chuckle, you know I would put some pedal to the metal and hightail it out of there.

A couple of weeks ago something strange happened.  We were at my daughter’s basketball game, the first playoff game at that, and her team was struggling.  In addition, she was playing sluggishly.  Usually, I sit in the stands and watch quietly, but since my husband wasn’t there being the cheerleader, I took over.  I felt like she needed me.

I shouted, “LET’S GO STORM!”

Next thing I know, my sons are looking at me in dismay.  They said, “It’s STOORM.  Not STARRM.”

First off, I’m Antiguan.  Our a’s are a tad bit strong, long and hard, just a tad.  But I swear I didn’t say it that harshly. 

Secondly, I drove to the school, signed her up, wrote the check and took her to practice.  I can say anything I please.

And thirdly, I was driving.  If they kept that up, they would find themselves walking back home.

But in an instant, I realized I had become that person…….THE IMMIGRANT PARENT WITH THE THICK ACCENT.

When Britney Spears performed seemingly drunk or high at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, Rihanna could not conceal her giggles.  Little did she know that exactly 16 months later, she was going to find herself in the middle of a nasty scandal.

But why do we have to wait until it happens to us to become empathetic to someone?  We should be able to show sympathy to people with whom we have nothing in common, because they are people.  

People with feelings.

Smaller people question how obese people could bring themselves to look like that, to let themselves get like that.  Only when they too are getting there do they understand.

People whose teenage daughters made them young grandparents were gossiped about until the gossipers found themselves in the same situation.

Why do we have to know or love someone who has lost his house or her job to be sympathetic to them?

Why do we have to know or love an alcoholic to be sympathetic to one?

Why do we have to know or love a drug addict to be sympathetic to one?

Why do we have to know or love someone who has a mental disorder to show some sympathy?

Why do we have to know or love someone who is HIV positive to be kindhearted?

Why do we have to know or love someone who is gay to be sympathetic to homosexuals?

So remember, do not judge and be compassionate because perspectively speaking, the person you look down on tomorrow just might be you.


  1. Unfortunately, to show empathy/sympathy is not something that can be taught. I believe it's inherent. So we owe it to our kids to not only tell them to treat others well but to actually do that ourselves. Nice post...

  2. You stepped on my toes, just a "tad." (Smile!)