And I’m not talking champion in the sporting sense. I just read an article by Alice at More Than Toast, about 8 hours later than everyone else, given time differences and an insane week of over-summer-scheduling, ferrying 4 children from morning swimming lessons to afternoon skating lessons.
Anyway, 8 hours late to the party, to read a really gentle and honest post reflecting on being 4 years post-divorce. With 30-odd comments, which I scrolled down to read while putting babies to bed.
And it left me feeling pretty flat, I suppose. I mean of course lots of articles get people reacting negatively, although this was a personal article written on a personal blog – one with a giant following – but a personal blog regardless. Dotted amongst the appreciative comments there were some really snarky remarks and I just read them with a familiar thud in the pit of my stomach.
Look, I love a good kvetch with a friend as much as the next person and I’m not shy about throwing an opinion – negative or otherwise – out there with very little evidence to back it up, but if I’m going to take the time to comment publicly on someone’s article then I’m going to make sure it is constructive, thoughtful, and hang on a moment, pleasant.
But it got me thinking, and at first I felt like the problem was in these few people saying something mean-spirited when they ought to just keep it to themselves (or even better, give people the benefit of the doubt and think better of others?)
And as an aside, it also jarred because of a miserable experience I had at a supermarket last week: for the first time, I picked up a banana from the ‘free fruit for kids’ stand and let our tired toddler eat it in the cart on the way round the shop.
When he’d finished I asked my 7 year old to put the peel in a bin and a random older man in the aisle next to us barked at me “aren’t you gonna pay for that?”
I was flustered (and irritated) and said something about it being free fruit for children to which he practically shouted back at me “well I didn’t know that” as though the interaction was my fault!
My older 3 children were looking worried and confused. Had we done something wrong? Uncharacteristically I didn’t apologise – and replied pretty calmly to say “then maybe next time you shouldn’t assume the worst of someone” before legging it around to the next aisle and hoping not to bump into him awkwardly for the next 20minutes of shopping.
Anyway. All that to say, why can’t we all stop assuming the worst of people?
And even more than that: when did being not-mean become aspirational? Why aren’t we all taking the time and effort to champion people a little more?
It’s something I work on with my children – helping them to (hopefully) think about paying their siblings and peers a compliment, or as we say to our 7 year old, to remember how important it is to build up the people around you.
But I think it’s time to look at it with a renewed focus and vigour, making sure I am championing people – family, friends, writers – maybe even strangers feeding their infant sons a banana.