[DAY 64] Being Magnanimous

Because in your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole. Also, because it’s harder to be magnanimous when you’re in your twenties, I think, and so that’s why I’d like to remind you of it. You’re generally less humble in that decade than you’ll ever be and this lack of humility is oddly mixed with insecurity and uncertainty and fear. You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

When my sister was born, I helped taking care of her. I remember the tiny pieces of shirts, of underwear, of gloves and socks, wet and shrunk, freshly from the washing machine. I remember my hands caressing them, hanging them one by one on the clothesline each morning, believing that by spreading them out for the eastern sun arrays to catch on, I helped me sister get stronger and taller. It’s all in the vitamin D.

That was my sole responsibility. I think my parents wanted me to do it just so I knew how to take part in a family thing. To be a part of a team. To commit to something bigger than myself. Yet, I got bored halfway through the summer (my sister was a June devil). I started air drying my sister’s clothes later in the day, and then my nanny ended up doing my chore. The only thing I needed to do to help Mom, I did half-heartedly. I just wanted to get it over with. After all, it wasn’t like I had a baby.

I’m living with a young family with a small boy. He’ll be two in less than a week, and he is a sweet boy. When I saw him for the first time every day, he would stop whatever he was doing, run to me, and give me a big hug. Sometimes, there’d be a wet kiss in the good-morning package. I would have to wipe my face, but in that moment I was the luckiest on Earth. Those are his happy moments.

Then there are days when he had his tantrums. He whimpered because his tooth was growing. He wailed because his toy was taken away. He cried and cried and cried, and we all got anxious, stressed, and annoyed. “What is wrong with you today, Sam? Why aren’t you happy?”

During those moments, I found myself hidden in my room, minding my own business. After all, isn’t the privilege of not having a kid is to enjoy solely the happy moments and pass the less pleasant ones? After all, I didn’t choose to have kids, and so why would I bother?

Why would anyone bother others’ problems? Why would my hosts take me in when my lease was ending and I had nowhere else to go? Why would my parents pay for my education when I could hardly pay them back? Why would my friend give me a ride or help me move when I didn’t have a car? Why would they do this and that for me even though they had the rights to enjoy only my happy moments?

Because they are kind. Generous. Compassionate.

Because they are good friends, and good friends don’t just appear when you are joyful and disappear the next second when you start telling them about your struggles. They are there when you wail. You whimper. You cry and yell and curse the world.

People always say you ought to show compassion and all that, but no example of kindness really touched me. I wasn’t born a warm girl, but then I learn, and today I learn the one point I was missing.

It is true that I don’t have to take on the responsibility of a parent to someone else’s kids. It is true that I am in my youthful years and I should enjoy it as much as I want to. Yet, when I imagine myself in five years, ten years from now, I see myself regret not helping Emily (my host) during her hard time as a pregnant lady and a stay-at-home mom. I will regret not being kind, and as I acknowledge the very fact, I am getting closer to “be about ten times more magnanimous than [I] believe [myself] capable of being.” Maybe I should start there, because only by starting there then I can dream of changing the world, since the world starts within changes in a single home.

I have always complained about white people who refuse to see the problems with race. About males who never acknowledge barriers their counterparts have to face. I always find it annoying that these people won’t give up their privilege for a better world. And then I see myself not giving up my freedom of a teenage to help those around me. It’s a sad reality, for me, and by seeing it through a different lens I find it hard to continue the old way.

Being magnanimous, to me, is giving up my privilege and look at matters –at the stressful situations and sad moments of life– in the lens of others, of those who are less fortunate and have less freedom to withdraw from the problems. It’s then that I choose to help, to take on the matters to a certain extent, not to solve it, but to offer what are available in my hand. Just like how I believe if white people or men use their privilege as a tool to be allies to people of color and women, the world will be a little bit better off when everyone else choose to extend their arms in situations they would avoid themselves. Of course there’s a boundary, but I think that’s a good start.

Published by Thi Le

Human.

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