In the aftermath of recent news in Australia of the discovery of an abandoned baby and the subsequent crucifying of his mother for the cruelty of the act, I’ve been feeling heart heavy and reflective.
Once my initial horror and outrage settled, other questions rose in my mind. Like, how did the people surrounding this woman not notice her missing baby for four days? Did anyone notice she wasn’t coping? We are supposed to have a good support system for new mothers in this country, so how did she slip through the net?
Everyone assumes she had a support network of friends or family around her, but did she? It’s easy sitting in the comfort of our own lives, whining about our bills or the tradesman who didn’t turn up or the family member who won’t cooperate on our Christmas plans, to assume that others enjoy the same privileges as we do – partner, parents, siblings, aunts, cousins, friends who care about our wellbeing and are keeping an eye on how we’re travelling.
We assume this woman has that too. We assume that if something goes wrong someone will always be there to help. But what if that someone never shows up?
Relationships are built around the idea of ‘us’. We all have an ‘us’ we identify with. ‘Us’ is our tribe, our group, the most important people in our immediate circle we have contact with. We see it as our job to look after and be part of our ‘us’. Anyone outside of ‘us’ is seen as ‘them’.
The moment we label a fellow human being as ‘them’, we disconnect. It happens in intimate relationships, in families, in communities and across nations. ‘Them’ may as well be another species. We don’t feel responsible for ‘them’ because ‘they’ are different and sometimes ‘they’ might even infringe on comfortable life, which makes us hostile.
Seeing another person as ‘them’ disconnects us from our humanity. It’s easy then to dehumanise someone and not be concerned for their welfare. Because we can’t identify with ‘them’ we feel righteous in our treatment of ‘them’. ‘They’ are always somebody else’s problem.
I’m not laying blame, there’s too much of that in this story as it is, I just want to point out the role disconnectedness plays in it. Disconnection is something most of us have experienced. It’s contagious. This woman didn’t feel connected to her baby. We don’t feel connected to her. Disconnection makes us all do terrible things. In some cases, unforgiveable things.
Connection is the solution to all forms of cruelty, and it starts in the way we treat our loved ones and the strangers beyond them. Small acts of consideration for others, even those outside our ‘us’, changes everybody’s experience of community. Respectful treatment of other people, especially those closest to us, is the seed of a more considerate community. Being connected to and taking care of our partner’s heart, as well as our own, creates an atmosphere of tolerance and respect that is carried out into the world.
Connection generates compassion. Compassionate people don’t do terrible things, like abandon babies or vilify women living in a hellish psychological place.
This recent incident has been a sobering reminder to me of what can happen when we disconnect from our heart and it hurts us all. All I can do to remedy it is make more of an effort to listen, to see, to notice and understand other human beings, to try and stay as connected to my own humanity as I can.
I’ll make the cake for the new neighbour next door and pop over to welcome them. I’ll put my trolley back in the correct trolley race after supermarket shopping. I’ll try not to shout at the idiot on the trail bike who roars up my street scaring the bejesus out of my dogs. I’ll give my family more attention. I’ll find ways to show I care for people around me, even if I don’t know them. And I will remind myself all the strangers crossing my path are part of my ‘us’.