How many people can you talk to? If your reply is
"quite a few" then it's obvious that you don't really
understand the question. Of course we all have numerous
acquaintances to whom we can chat about the weather, arthritis
in the big toe or who won the game last night. I have a
somewhat friend that I can call whenever I want to listen to how
busy she is or the details of the latest Buick she bought.
(So help me, in the ten years I've known her, I am positive the
latest one is her sixth or seventh new Buick!)
She has as many inner hurts as I do, and every now and then,
in a desperate moment, she will share them with me. Yes,
they're pretty obvious when you examine the frantic pace she
keeps and the way she tries to apply new automobile ownership as
a salve to the hurting soul. But, if she isn't desperate
to let off some steam, then the conversation never gets into
sharing the stuff that matters.
I believe this is true of the entire nation. We have
250 million people who need to talk and only a few dozen true
listeners who aren't paid professionals.
One phrase I'm sick of hearing is, "deal with it."
Great balls o'fire, that is what I, and others, are trying to
do. What do you mean, "deal with it?" I
think you mean, "shut up and don't bother me with it, I
have my own problems." Well, then, you need someone
to talk to also, and your method of dealing with it is to turn
others off, and crank your emotional, mental and physical
engines into high gear and start running like a desperate
cheetah out for a world speed record.
The run from it exercise only works until you
find out that in the still of the night, the hurts are still
there, little gnomes that come to steal the joy of your life and
stick aching darts into your thoughts. You haven't dealt
with it. You haven't shared your pain. You're afraid
to share your pain, or you can't afford to hire a professional
listener. Professionals are there to listen, analyze,
categorize, chastise, sympathize and collect. Inside, you
know it's all for the money, and inside, the little gnomes are
laughing at the charade. They're laughing as you swallow
your pain pills or tranquilizers, or high priced designer drug.
You haven't got a friend you can really talk to!
Neither do a lot of our kids today. Busy parents,
uncaring parents, nasty kids at school, teachers with orders to
control words and conduct, leave too many with nowhere to turn
but to some video game that allows the venting of steam but
never evicts the gnawing gnomes. Just terminator-zapping
some figures on a video screen isn't venting at all, it's
fomenting the desire for revenge.
The opportunity to really talk it out is rare. That was
true decades ago when I was a kid, it's just as true today but
it's on a more potent level. My generation didn't shoot,
this generation will at the breaking point. No one can be
certain just where that breaking point is.
One of the worst traditions we've carried over from past
generations is that mothers and fathers always have a child's
best interests at heart. Don't mistake me, I don't believe
the government should ever replace the parent as final authority
in child rearing or interfere short of avoiding felonious
conduct. I don't believe it is the job of schools to be
surrogate parents. All I believe is that everyone has the
capacity to be a friend, but few have the will to do so.
After all, you have to like someone to be a friend, and how many
kids or adults from dysfunctional homes are likable? It
takes a bit of work and a lot of caring to find out the likable
qualities, and perhaps some young or older people will never be
Neither do I believe in the "mother worship" cult
that says kids (or adults) can never express a negative
sentiment about Mama the Great unless mom got busted by the cops
for drug use, child abuse or some other felony. Irrational
and often saber-tongued moms can do a lot of damage and out of
stupidity never even have a clue!
Why is it parents feel they don't need to earn a child's
respect? That's a carryover from the days when parents
wielded the power of child ownership, and hopefully those days
are gone forever from the American scene. Parents are
stewards with parental authority over the growth, development
and maturation of children so that they are prepared for
adulthood. They have as much a duty to listen as they do
to set boundaries and enforce rules with discipline.
So who can a child safely talk to? They don't know and
I am not sure, because each case is individual, each case is
different. In former days, it was perhaps an understanding
aunt or uncle, cousin or friend. As for adults who have
managed to struggle through, perhaps they have an empathetic
cousin or some special friend, but special friends have become
fairly scarce these days. It's really easier to find
someone who will share about a no-good, rotten pig of a husband
or wife than it is to share about a warped parent. But,
with the exception for the paid slobs who spill their guts to
the whole world on talk shows, for a fee, it's hard for many
people to really pour out their hurts into someone else's
listening ear. Sometimes it involves things that are
horribly difficult to tell.
Then the rage builds up inside, because the torment doesn't
go away. It isn't even abated, until we can somehow vent
it out with the empathy of a friend. They may not feel our
pain, but they can give some time to listen and to show they
Talking it out lifts much of the pressure that can build into
rage. The talker feels better even if they feel a bit
stupid about having to vent stuff they wish had never happened.
That's a social pressure we've put on people, and it isn't
appropriate any longer, especially in an age that's trying to
replace people with technology.
"Talk to me" is perhaps the silent cry behind all
the outbursts of rage, child and adult.
A cry that is all too often lost in the clanging noise of the
commute, the roaring at the game, the shouting arguments at
home, and the mind-numbing blathering of so-called friends.
Talking and crying can release a lot of steam and re-energize
us emotionally for the next day of life in a frantic world.
All a talker needs to help that raging soul is a good, kind
These basics never were replaced by sci-fi technology.
That's because we're so ... well, so utterly human!
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