Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Distance from Be to Are

When I read studies that showed, alternately, that children would much rather lose a limb or get cancer than be fat, I was not surprised. Not even a little bit. What does surprise me, a lot, however, is when I see any act of kindness, or inclusion, or genuine welcome of people who are fat, or really, people who are different in any real way. I think what people fear becomes what they hate. It's like when you slide up the alphabet from 'be' to 'are' - going from fearing to be to hating those who are. Those who fear being weak punish those who are weak. Those who would hate being vulnerable abuse those who are. Those who fear being fat brutalize those who are. But kindness - inclusiveness - welcome - those are things that can enter a world and change it.

I took my seat and shortly thereafter notice a hugely fat man, nearly my size walk into the room and take his seat in a row two in front of me. It was an uncomfortable seat for him, the arms cutting into his sides, but he was there. After being seated, only for a couple of minutes or so, he got up, with some struggle and left the room. I don't know where he went.

While he was gone two teen girls came and sat in the same row, the nearest being one seat separate from where the large man had sat. They began to talk and laugh together. When the big guy came back into the room, he saw the girls and blanched. But he continued on and sat back down in his original seat. The girl furthest from him spoke in loud whispers to her friend. She wanted to move, she wanted to get away from that row. "What," she asked, horrified, "if people think we KNOW him." The girl listening. Sat silent, then in the smallest of moves, she shook her head. She would not move.

The other girl, angry, got up, glared at the fat man, who had heard everything she had said, and stormed up towards a seat somewhere behind me. It was only moments when the room fell silent and the show began. At one point everyone was laughing, a genuinely funny moment, and I saw the young woman reach over to the large man and give him a punch on the shoulder and he turned to her and they laughed together.

A stunningly inclusive act.

An 'Order of Canada' kind of kind and inclusive act.

When the show was over, the big man got up right away, the young woman waited for her friend to return. He took a step away from her and then turned and leaned down and spoke to her quietly. I don't know what he said, but I saw that she was crying as he spoke. She reached up and gave him a quick hug.

Her friend arrived and was about to speak, the look on her face told everyone what the topic would be, this was met with a hard stare and one word, "Don't."

Sometimes the distance between 'be' and 'are' can be traversed, quickly and easily, by a determination to be better that what others think you are.


Glee said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Of such is the kingdom of God.

Good for her for standing up, not for him, but for herself.


Tamara said...

I gotta admit, I teared up a little reading that.

Maggie said...

Just: Wow!

wheeliecrone said...

Isn't it wonderful to see a wise and courageous young woman! Perhaps she can teach her shallow friend a thing or two.

clairesmum said...

Wonderful - I hope this is healing to the areas of your wonderful self that sustain the wounds and bear the scars of prejudice and hatred - like a bit of aloe jelly to soothe a burn.

Liz said...


Rickismom said...

good to know that there ARE people like that!

Moose said...

Impressive. Amazing. Far too rare.

Every fat person has gone through this. The fattest of us go through it so often it makes your head spin.

Once, so long ago, back when I could still walk, I was in another city playing tourist. I got on a bus to go back to my hotel. A pile of teenagers got on and sat near me. One of them, obviously trying to show off, stared at me for a minute and then turned his back and started saying nasty things about me to his friends, as if my being fat also impaired my hearing. To my shock, every one of his friends immediately turned on him. I will never forget one of them loudly saying, "That's just not cool!" and another turning to me and apologizing for the other's words. The nasty-mouthed one turned beet red, stared at the floor, and didn't say another word until they got off the bus.

So rare. Yet times like that burn into your brain.