by +Victorio Milian
Have a Heart: Understanding that a Label isn’t a Solution. It’s a Barrier
With a heart two sizes too small, the Grinch struggles to understand Christmas. There were other theories that Dr. Seuss offered, “But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos, staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown at the warm lighted windows below in their town.” Hating…rough.
We would be remiss to not identify the truth for many this holiday season, which is that it’s not happy, merry nor bright. Whether Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Festivus, it’s not celebratory. There are plenty who cannot see family for a second year in a row due to the pandemic and its related travel restrictions. There are those who do not have others with whom to rejoice; yes, that still happens. With a socially distant existence for many, relationships have suffered. It may not be true for you, but that does not make it so for others.
On more than one occasion, I have heard one person refer to another as a “Grinch.” We are desperate to label. If you don’t fit into the paradigm I want, then I must find a way to categorize you. Truth be told, most labeling is about the labeler feeling better/authoritative/powerful over another. We label to bring ourselves some faux sense of position to quell the unsettled churning within us. Too broad? Think about it in your own life.
When we find out the story behind why someone is responding as a Grinch, we may have the opportunity to jump into action as an advocate rather than as a bully. It’s our A-B testing. Once a valid story is heard and mildly verified, we decide to keep name-calling or to assist in making the holidays better for that person.
Many moons ago, there was a manager who was a curmudgeon during the holidays. Mind you, this was a retail setting which gave everyone working there a reason to loathe the holidays, but this person was exceptional at being unhappy. People gossiped about him and what size pole must have been inserted during his childhood. When I had an off-handed opportunity to chat with him while we were handling a stockroom issue, he shared that the holidays made him miss his mom greatly and he didn’t like being reminded about Christmas all day every day at work. He was skilled in the core components of his job, but the environment, at least seasonally, drove him inward. When I encouraged him to try to enjoy those still with him today while affirming the beautiful memories he had of his mom, tears filled his eyes. He didn’t want to feel like this. As a hugger, I embraced him, and he melted into a puddle.
I became an advocate for him and would not allow others to minimize him. Was he a Grinch? Perhaps, but he had a reason. And it was not a reason unlike what some others face. At the time, I was young in my profession and did not know enough about mental health and support, but I knew enough to care for someone hurting. Today, there are more resources available to those needing support. And we can offer them without the need to label anyone.