Broken-Winged Bird

photo-1467857499683-7c766c8c1f15Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

-Langston Hughes

I recently had a man recite Langston Hughes’ poem Dreams. The contextual nature in which the poem was recited was a crucial aspect of understanding the value of this piece, but due to anonymity, I would prefer to stop there with the situational context. More important though was my part in the story. No…not that I am just wanted to write about myself, which is nice sometimes, but I’m referring to the judgement I placed upon this man. You see, this man is part of the society that we have a tendency to shun, pretend as if they don’t exist. The part of society that gets locked away, never to be seen or heard of again, while children become orphans, wives become widows, and mothers and fathers become parents of lost children. Back to the point…this was a man that just wanted a chance fulfill his dream. A dream that he could one day be looked at as if he was worth something to others, and could contribute meaning to the world. His dream happened to me, but not until after I made a judgement prior to allowing him the chance to thrill me with his gentle, but worn, forgiving expression of tone.

Context

This man had seen and spent the majority of his life experiencing things I won’t pretend I could imagine, nor foolishly attempt to describe without having to have survived the depths of suffering that he has experienced throughout his life. But the aspect of this event that has stuck with me is my foolishness in assuming I knew this man; as if he contained nothing other than my perception of who he was. The crux was that I assumed he had little to offer in the sense of literacy due to his lack of formal education and spoken word. I judged another human being on his past; a past that he will most likely seek the rest of his life for the redemption he deserves, but will sadly never receive. The honesty of this situation was that I judged another human being, and not only did I judge him, I failed to value his worth and contribution to the world as part of my own naivety.

I lost many hours of sleep thinking of my perceptual misconception of this man, and began to think how often this unfortunate act occurs throughout each day to so many other people who are judged in much the same way I judged this man. What about your perception of the homeless man on the street prior to realizing his just lost his entire family in a car accident, the single mother in the checkout line of the local grocery store using food-stamps to buy a fancy birthday cake prior to learning it’s for her child  she’s losing to cancer, or the chuckling of a schoolyard about an eleven year-old child getting bullied on the playground prior to reading in the newspaper the following week that she took her own life because she felt like there was something wrong with her.

Conclusion

The reality of our willingness to assume we know something about someone else is only a means in hiding our own insecurities, and only strengthens the justification for the little we actually know, or are willing to admit, about ourselves. If we truly understood ourselves, and the struggles we have endured as so many others have, we would have a greater reluctance to look outwards of ourselves in ridicule prior to looking inside ourselves for personal understanding.

Either way you look at it, maybe we are all the broken-winged birds, unable to fly, trying to find a way to follow our dreams… a dream of belonging in a world that is so quick to cast us aside?

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