Friday, May 25, 2012

It Takes One to Know One

Some things are counter intuitive.  For example, if you exercise until you're tired, you will feel more awake later.  Crying can actually make you feel happier.  Adopting a practice that you don't initially believe in can, in fact, change your mind over time.  None of them make much sense on the surface.

The same with "it takes one to know one."  Whenever I heard my father or mother say, "It takes one to know one," they were always saying it in the sense of "the pot calling the kettle 'black.'"  It was not a good thing.

And so it was counter intuitive to me as I began to discover that "it takes one to know one" goes both ways, kind of like Gandhi's exhortation, "Be the change you want to see in the world," which I can't say that I have always believed.

Until we began sharing.

Our family stance on sharing began a couple of months after we returned to the US after living in Korea.  While we had lived there, sharing one's property was not only common, it was expected.  If you had your toys at the playground and you set them down and another kid picked them up, you were expected to allow them to have a proper turn with them.  If you had a toy that a younger child grabbed from your hand, you were to exercise patience and magnanimity and not only let them use the toy for a time, but share it with joy.

Some cultural differences could be overlooked.  A foreigner need not love doenjang jigae (fermented soybean paste soup) and could even get away with not eating kimchi at every meal.  Not everyone living in America needs to drive a car, even though we are the land of Detroit. Some differences can be tolerated.

Others are culturally not okay.  We don't use blatantly racist slurs in America and think we can get away with it.  Not okay.  You don't openly horde in Korea.  The cultural evilness factor is similar.  Not okay.

Therefore, since we go back and forth frequently, sharing was not a value I could afford letting my kids lose.  So we began to practice sharing here. 

The rules were simple:
  1. If you took it outside, you either had to give others a turn with it or have other similar items that the neighbors could use.
  2. If you couldn't share it, it had to come back inside and couldn't go out.
  3. If the property wasn't respected (i.e., people were breaking it just to break it), it came back in and stayed back in--generally for a few days, just long enough for everyone to miss it.
Up until this time, there had not been much sharing outside.  In fact, there was no sharing between neighbors at all although cousins and siblings would occasionally trade off possessions under duress.  But after a few weeks of our sharing program, I began to see real differences outside.  Kids handed things over readily.  The two children who used to break everything had become careful.  Other children occasionally brought out their own possessions and shared them without tears or ultimatums.

And I began to think back to the old expression of my parents.  And I remembered those who had forcefully influenced my life--my own giving neighbors, teachers who didn't stop at the classroom door, peers who were both giving and courageous, and those women who were older than I who have taught me how to be a wife, a mother, a friend.  I realized something very important.

It does take one to know one, and it also takes one to make one.

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