I have always thought of myself as a kind and generous person. I mean, I'm no Mother Theresa or Ghandi by any means, (Lord knows I could use his diet plan). But I am a feller who will go out of his way to make someone's life a little better through word or deed. As of late though I have been a little more self-loathing on my self-vision.
Ya see, I have been the funny guy to those who know me. I can crack a swift one-liner at the drop of a hat without blinking. I can make jokes at any moment to let others around me have a good laugh. Maybe that's because I grew up in a family with a sense of humor or maybe I developed that skill out of self-preservation from being the fat kid at school. I figured if I was gonna get laughed at, it was going to be on MY terms and not because I had a liking to the overindulgence of my mom's spaghetti and fried chicken.
My terms meant making other folks laugh at other folks. The easiest target, people with disabilities. I learned that if you remove yourself far from another's pain or affliction, the better it makes you look better in your own mind. This is delusional, I know that now, but I didn't want to think of it like that before...it took away from the jokes.
My wife had even worked with people with disabilities of all sorts. She helped them to find employment to better their lives and claimed that it actually bettered hers. She was filled with such a satisfaction when she could help others. At the time she was in that job I had to put my humor for the disabled away. It didn't impress her when I would crack a short bus joke. In fact, it pissed her off. Her heart would never allow herself or someone else around her to belittle anyone for any reason. I was admonished many a time when my sharp tongue would pierce her mind with something so mean for the sake of a foolish laugh. My wife would always tell me she was dumbfounded at how I could go for a cheap easy laugh when she knew I had it in me to be truly funny without having to be at the expense of someone else. I would dismiss it. I didn't know these people, therefore it didn't affect me.
Time went on and she changed professions, (although her fondness for the disability community did not). To me this meant that I was free to tell jokes like the old days. I mean after all, who was I hurting? It wasn't like I was telling those jokes TO someone with a disability, just telling those jokes ABOUT them.
Then I Met Tanis
My wife is somewhat of a social media junkie. (I wanted to say genius, but she is too modest to let me call her that) Heck, it's what she does for a living now. She was (and still is) trying to get me into the 21st century by hooking me up in the realms of social media via the norms of Facebook, Twitter, and now Google +. She introduced me to the bloggers who influenced her. One of those being Tanis Miller. You really need to read her blog to get the true feel for who she is. I am pretty good at descriptive writing, but I couldn't do her the justice that her own blog can. What I can say is I'm not much of a reader, but I sat down the first night and started reading her posts and didn't stop for 4 hours. I started with her humorous posts, from I am Canadian (please don't hurt me!) to Plight of the Pillsbury. Her creative and sometimes raunchy humor made me laugh hysterically, but I noticed that the only person she made fun of was herself...and at times her husband who must be a man of great humor and patience. She never turned her sharp wit toward anyone else. Although brash and naughty at times, her writings were sincere and hilarious. I then turned my attention to her more serious posts.
These Are God's Children
The first post out of her "Reality" was Why You Should Never Use The "R" Word. Just one of many posts talking about the loss of her son, Shale, the adoption and loss of her foster child she calls Bambam, and her Jumby, her adopted son. She talked in depth about her passion with children with disabilities. She opened her heart to the realities of illness, pain, courage and loss more than anyone I had ever met. I couldn't stop reading...or crying. At first I was moved by how protective she is over her children. Her anger against prejudice convicted me on the spot. She was talking directly to me. "You cold, heartless bastard." I thought of myself. How could you EVER make a joke about someone like this? These are people who are loved. These are her children...these are God's Children! Calling myself a Christ loving man seemed like the bigger joke here. Her children never laughed at me, how could I do that to them. I felt so small. I never thought of myself as evil...until then. There was never, EVER anything wrong with them. The problem all along was with me. That's not who I am and I refuse to be that way. I swore I'd never do it again...and I meant it.
I'm Still Growing
I believe that God moves in all ways through all people. He used my wife's awesome social media skills to get me to The Redneck Mommy. He used the Redneck Mommy to get to me. It worked. I no longer think jokes about others who do not meet "society's norms" are funny. They breathe the same air I do and their hearts beat in the same rhythm as mine. God loves them the same as He does me. They deserve the same human respect as I would want for myself or those whom I love. I am still ashamed for what I used to think was funny. But now I can be thankful for this changed heart. I'm still growing, thank God.
Thank you, Tanis for being real in every way. You are more than just entertaining. You are an educator to those of us who need educating. You and Jumby are both new heroes of mine. I hope that I can change the hearts of others like you have. I think I'll start with me :)