OK, I Believe You

One of the life lessons I am constantly relearning is “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

This morning when I was doing my usual readings, I ran across performing artist and civil right activist Oscar Brown Jr.’s version of a 19th century Martin Delaney quote. Delayney said: “A serpent is a serpent, and none the less a viper, because it is nestled in the bosom of an honest-hearted man.”

Brown’s anecdote is this:

On her way to work one morning
Down the path along side the lake
A tenderhearted woman saw a poor, half-frozen snake
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
“Poor thing,” she cried, “I’ll take you in, and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in tender woman,
“Take me in, for heaven’s sake
“Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

She wrapped him all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived,
She found that pretty snake she’d taken to had been revived

“Take me in, tender woman,
“Take me in, for heaven’s sake
“Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

She clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”
She stroked his pretty skin again and kissed and held him tight
Instead of saying thanks, the snake gave her a vicious bite

“Take me in, tender woman,
“Take me in, for heaven’s sake
“Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried the woman
“And you’ve bitten me, but why?
“You know your bite is poisonous, and now I’m going to die”

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in
“Take me in, tender woman,
“Take me in, for heaven’s sake
“Take me in, tender woman,” sighed the snake

I’ve ruminated on this very supposition for the past several weeks. You see, I have a problem: When I have a connection with someone, I interact with them based on the potential I see in them and not, necessarily, based on who they actually are.

It is a wonderful thing, I believe, to see a person for what they can become. Too commonly, we are a people–humans, that is–who don’t have dreams for ourselves. Sadly, I’m learning there are a number of us don’t even know how to dream. But when a person’s reality (present) is different than their possibilities (future), we do ourselves a disservice to carry on, oblivious to what is. There’s something to be said, of course, for expectations and hopes. That’s a lot of what love is. After all, true love is supposed to believe all things and hope all things. But at its worst, when we deny and are oblivious to who one is today, we’re not honoring the person for who they are. … We also assert that they’re liars.

How much more manageable and fulfilling might our lives be if we believed people’s humanity when they showcased it for us? If we could say, “He’s been hurt tremendously, be careful” or “She’s full of life, soak it in,” I’m convinced our present realities would be different. This isn’t to say there’d be no strife or complication, but we would, most certainly be able to have a greater appreciation for the complexities of life.

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~ by MsInklination on November 7, 2011.

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