“You are no better than anyone else, and no one else is any better than you.”
This is something that my mother taught to me when I was very young. I grew up just believing it. It has always been a very simple, very real statement to me. One day when I was in high school I said this to a girl. She was a reasonably close acquaintance of mine at school. She was a straight “A” student and a ballerina. She was an extremely hard worker, always training or studying.
I believe that she had gotten a less than perfect grade on a paper. She was very upset and she mentioned how someone else had gotten a higher grade than her and this brought me around to the words that my mother had taught to me. Don’t get me wrong here; I was pretty blunt as a kid. I may not have delivered the words very gracefully. I put the poor girl in tears. I was completely astonished by this.
How could anyone be upset by the reality of their own equality? How strange. I didn’t understand her reaction at all. I understand it a little more now, after a lot of years. I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about it actually. One of the things that I didn’t understand at the time was that I was pretty different from the kids I went to school with. I guess that when we’re kids and we just want to fit in so badly, we refuse to see how different we are from others, even when it is glaringly obvious.
I understand now what my classmate had never considered at that point in her life. She had never looked at someone and seen anything but what they were on the outside. If you look at someone and only see their accomplishments and accolades, then it is hard to see them as an equal if you have achieved vastly more than they have. When my young acquaintance saw a homeless person on the street, she probably saw…well nothing.
I am so grateful that I was taught differently, and that I was taught it before I had even had a chance to consider the idea. I can honestly say that when I see a homeless person on the street I see a lot. I know in my heart that he may be the man with the ability to cure cancer. Why not? Maybe his life experience simply didn’t facilitate that achievement, that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of it. He and I are equal.
I see it all around me, in every person that I meet. There is so much potential everywhere. I think that because we mentally deny other people equality in our minds, we fail to encourage them to achieve their own potential. As a society we do this often to children. Our hard working teachers can only do so much to expand the minds and the creative natures of our kids. We must make a collective effort to inspire them as a community. It’s our job.
If you have a child, or know a young person, tell them this. Tell them that they are no better than anyone else and that no one is any better that they are. Say it to yourself too, look inside and explore whether or not you truly believe it. Unless we all truly know that we are equal there will never be any equality in the world. Along with equality comes the belief in the potential of others and the desire to help them reach their own goals. In turn they will help us to reach ours.