This I Believe

Debbie - Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Entered on November 17, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that everyone is crazy in their own way.

When I would complain to my mother about the unfair words or actions of another, she would shrug her shoulders and respond “Well, as Grandma would say…” and my mom would spout a Slovenian phrase that translates “Everyone is crazy in their own way.” No words of sympathy or permission to whine about how I thought I had been wronged.

Grandma’s wisdom came from her life as a Slovenian peasant, living as a second class citizen in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When Grandma and Grandpa came to the coal camps of Northern New Mexico in 1920, their language and customs were foreign to everyone but a few others like themselves.

Miners were not much more than servants to the coal companies. They rented company houses, were paid in script that was only good at the company store and were told how to vote. Grandma would tell of company men visiting and saying. “When you go to vote, Mrs. Cunja, you put your X right here.” My Grandmother, pretending to know no better, took the sample ballot and began to put her X on the requested spot. “No, no, not now,” the men said. But when they left, my Grandparents laughed to themselves and later went to the polls and voted as they chose.

Their political views were at odds with the coal establishment. When the camp was closing, my grandparents were the first “to be asked to leave.” In other words, Grandpa’s job was terminated and they were evicted from their home.

So, this was it? “Everybody is crazy in their own way?” This from ancestors who knew poverty amidst racial, social and political oppression. No family legacy of bitterness, anger or hatred?

No. My grandparents emerged from all the prejudice they had known with this exceptional attitude about the world. As I tested their wisdom, I found it freed me from judging people. Instead of condemning those who were different than me, I accepted that difference as a given. I began to look for it and was never disappointed!

Instead of ignoring or exploiting people’s differences, I just choose to watch for them. I use wonder and curiosity as my lens for looking out at those with whom I share this planet. I am sometimes angered, of course, by what I find. But most often I am fascinated and delighted.

I find a sense of adventure in this hunt for people treasures. I uncover riches on each journey. How dull it would be if everyone were the same. Our differences give spark to life. We can always be surprised.

Everyone’s crazy in their own way means that I am, too. It helps me be okay with the uniqueness that is me.

My family legacy is one of personal responsibility, so I learned to look at the world through that lens. I got this: “Everyone is crazy in their own way” and I believe it might help to pass it on.