This past week, Grace came straight from God, through me, directly to my mother. It was a fairly constant flow.
My mother is visiting from Arkansas. I have been filling her days and evenings with activities (with me) to distract her from my dad and sisters. FirstHusband says they owe me big time. She leaves Monday morning, early. I plan on sitting on my love seat on Monday morning, with a cup of coffee, listening to the clocks tick.
Here’s an example of this week’s conversation with my mother:
My Mother: “Did I tell you my joke about the zebra?”
My Mother: “The zebra asked St. Peter if he was white with black stripes or black with white stripes.”
Me: (no. please no. not one of these jokes.)
My Mother: “St. Peter told the zebra to ask God. God said, “You are what you are.” The zebra went back to St. Peter and said he didn’t understand God’s answer. St. Peter said, “You are white with black stripes.” The zebra asked, “How do you know?” St. Peter said, because he said “You are what you are.” If you were black with white stripes, he would have said . . . ”
Me: (oh, please don’t say it. please. somebody please tell me that my own mother doesn’t think this is funny. Thank you God, that we are in the car and I’m the only one who can hear this. )
My Mother: She finishes the joke. (and if you don’t know what she said, GOOD!!! That means we’re making progress in the world.)
Me: (instead of the expected laugh, smile or chuckle) “You know I teach cultural competence, right?”
My Mother: “Yeh.” (chuckle.)
Me: “Please tell me you don’t tell that joke in public places.”
(I already know she tells these jokes in non-public places. And I’ve known her long enough to know that’s not going to change. The last time she included my email address in a group email and sent an “inappropriate” email to our family shared inbox, she concluded with “anyone who doesn’t think this is hilarious just doesn’t have a sense of humor.”)
My Mother: “Sometimes. But not when anyone can hear me.”
Me: “There are a lot of people who wouldn’t find that joke funny.”
My Mother: (sigh.) “I know.”
Later that afternoon, at my house, in front of FavoriteSon, with PinkGirl a few feet away:
My Mother: “Can I tell my zebra joke to YourFavoriteSon?”
Me: “No, mom. He doesn’t think like that.”
My Mother: “Please?” (sticks her bottom lip out in a childish pout, which she somehow believes has persuasive power)
Me: “No. I’ve done a lot of work here. Please don’t chip away at it.”
I will spare you the comment she made about the black pastor of the church she has been attending. I will skip the mocking imitation of the Latin accented sales lady as we were leaving a store.
I know she was leveling. She needs to see others as less.
Any time I’m around someone who makes fun of others, I see it as leveling. I perceive the person making fun as lacking in self-confidence and finding it easier to put others at a lower level than bring themselves up to a higher one. I believe the same is true for people who use non-joking sarcasm to make others look stupid.
When I witness a person making fun of someone or being snidely or cruelly sarcastic (or when I am the target myself), my view is that it stems from the attacker’s weakness and deep need to be better than others. If I can view them this way, I don’t get angry so much. I feel pity for them, and can give them Grace. But not respect.
sarcasm has its place. (note: this clip has a curse word in it)