"That Kind of Person"

A few weeks ago I read an interesting article about parents who forget and leave their children in the car. It was a horrible article to read, but fascinating at the same time. Several things stood out to me from it. First of all, a demographic survey reveals no common link between any of the parents that do this. They are all over the map, and even include parents that have gone through great time and expense to adopt children. It's certainly not a case of neglect or an absence of love. The article pointed out that these parents are often vilified in the media or by law enforcement (in many cases they are arrested and charged with neglect or even manslaughter). The writer theorized that the reason for our visceral reaction to this phenomena is the fact that in our subconscious we are afraid that we could be that normal parent who just forgets, and to escape that fear we must demonize them and turn them into the 'Other', some kind of non-human monster. Another, related point, was the fact that engineers have come up with several different kinds of car-seat sensors that are relatively cheap and easy to install. Unfortunately, they've never been able to market them in a way that people will be willing to buy them. Everyone assumes that they are the kind of person who would never forget their child and therefore doesn't need to install a sensor on their carseat.

This article came to mind again a little while ago when I was thinking about my new ward and realizing that my attendance this summer had been somewhat spotty due to vacations and other things. I found myself thinking "I don't want them to think I'm the kind of person who is lazy and inactive." Yes, I know that's ironic since my husband doesn't attend church. After having the thought I spent a while examining myself and my assumptions about people who seem 'lukewarm' in their attendance. I realized that I had also fallen into the trap of assuming that they were somehow 'foreign' or 'other' and that there was a certain type of person who would do such a thing. Clearly if there was a specific sort of person who didn't bother going to church, I must avoid being that kind of person. I'm glad that I could catch myself in this pattern of thinking and realize that all of us struggle with various things and that it is important not to label people and assume that they fall neatly into categories. Hopefully I can work on being the type of person who doesn't believe in types.

Comments

Em said…
Every time I read those stories I have "there but for the grace of God go I" moments.

I agree with the observations on "othering" these people. We have to find some way we're different from them to not go nuts worrying that we'll be the ones (as opposed to some equally statistically unlikely stranger) to hurt our kids!
Melissa said…
Some of the most active people in my ward come without spouses. Don't worry about being being seen "less-active" without a spouse at your side. The rest of us who can barely get our two kids out the door with our husband's help are amazed at the woman who comes on her own with 4! (speaking from experience).
skyeJ said…
It helps when there isn't a list anymore to check off each week about how "good" you are or not.
MarySquare said…
Melissa, -- I guiltily like it when my husband chooses to stay home from church -- he gets the kids ready, packs the snacks, etc. while I have extra time to actually do my hair and put make-up on. When he does come, we are both rushing to get ready that it is a mad dash to the door.
Earth Sign Mama said…
Everyone is in such different places at different times in their lives. Some people just go through the motions, thinking that if they get through their list, they must be doing it right. Other times we can't do anything outwardly--all our spirituality has to be within. It's probably someplace in the middle. I feel pretty sure that God won't need to see the list. He can see into our hearts.
skyeJ said…
Thanks, Mom. :)
JB said…
I really like this one. :)

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