Ooo, I have so many thoughts on this one. Too many directions.
Let’s start with anecdote. In high school I did duo interpretation with a classmate, and we chose a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. My partner liked Stella, and I took Blanche.
Blanche is the one who says, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” This is generally held up as one of her many weaknesses. It’s seen as a reason to pity her. She’s a tragic, broken character. An object warning to the viewer: don’t be like Blanche.
I have mixed feelings about that. Yes, she’s in a bad way, and she’s delusional. But those truths don’t make what she’s saying wrong. It only means she’s been betrayed over and over until she shatters and yet still trusts. And I can’t pity her for that. There’s a courage in it, even if her flaws and bad choices destroyed her in the end.
It isn’t easy to rely on others. It’s frightening, because it goes wrong oh-so-very-often, and “once burned, twice shy” is a lesson learned early. We’re taught that independence is a virtue, that doing for ourselves is the highest achievement, and that makes needing help a declaration of defeat. Nobody likes to lose.
There’s shame attached to reliance, and that can poison the whole idea. Needing a helping hand isn’t a defeat. It’s life. Everyone stumbles. And helping someone — being rely-able — shouldn’t be a thing to resent or disdain. Statements like, “Why can’t they take care of themselves?” and “Don’t look at me for help,” are empathy failures that baffle me. (I mean, if someone with my empathy deficiencies can figure it out, anyone can) It’s says sad things about our culture when people think being unreliable is a virtue.
I believe we all can do better for each other. We can be the Good Samaritan, who steps up to be relied on by those who despise her. (Lookit at that hen in the picure. How happy she is to have babies, even if they’re not chicks!)
And we can accept the stranger’s hand that reaches out to us when we stumble, even when we worry deep down that we don’t deserve it, or fear that it’s a trap or a sneak attack.
The world becomes a better place when we trust enough rely on strangers. So in that sense, being able to rely on the kindness of strangers is the keystone to civilization.
When we rely on one another, we stop being strangers. We reflect our humanity in each other, and were made better by the sharing.
Click here to see the global #AdventWord event/calendar I’m bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord
image: from Facebook page I Iz Cat