“We must make good use of this life for the time that we have left.
This brief flash of light, like the sun appearing through the clouds.”~Kalu Rinpoche.
When I was about 15 I had my first perm. Like most females I was convinced that my own look was not good enough, I had to try something different. People with curly hair straighten it; people with straight hair want it curly. By the time I was finished with the smelly, boring process I emerged with a look no different from the 50 year old lady who sat next to me in the salon. My hair was teased and sprayed and stiff. I was so mad I did everything they had told me not to do. I ran my fingers through it trying to change the look. I went home and washed it somehow hoping I would wash the curl out (word to the wise: this only results in an unattractive frizz!). Alas, I was stuck with the look.
But the good news is that the ‘permanent’ grows out and wears out in about 3 months. I did not try getting a perm again for another 7 years or so, when again, I wanted a new look. The curly perm was in. For a while I rocked that look, faithfully going through the smelly, boring process every 3 months. I could not understand how my hair roots could not get the hint! Grow curly! Eventually I gave up. At the time I was having babies (it felt like every 3 months) and finding time to go and sit in a hairdresser’s chair for a few hours became less feasible. I was stuck with straight hair.
I come from a long line of straight-haired people. For all of her working life my mother permed her hair, doing it herself from a kit. It was perhaps only in the last decade or so of her 90 plus years that she embraced the straight, and kept her hair short and sassy. It sometimes takes us a while to recognize that beauty comes from loving your own look, instead of borrowing someone else’s. Many women are more beautiful in middle age and beyond, as they give up trying to make themselves into something they are not, and accept their own unique style.
But what else do we inherit from our foreparents? What other traits must we accept, and what are we challenged to change? I heard recently, not for the first time, that there is research suggesting that trauma and suffering can change your DNA so that you pass on your own experiences to your children and grandchildren. There seems to be a link between the poor diet and starvation suffered by slaves and others afflicted by poverty hundreds of years ago and current disorders associated with poor diets, such as diabetes and hypertension today. Which makes it even more important that we try to break the cycle, to send a healthier message through our own DNA.
I was struck by a report that spoke of a woman in Syria, a refugee, who was worried about how her kids would get an education. Having seen (and tried not to think of) the devastation and horrific scenes that come out that country, I was amazed that she could even think beyond survival. What trauma is being visited upon those children, those at least that will survive the bloodshed? And yet this mother had the hope that her kids would survive, and wished only that they could get back in school. Some of these kids are being educated only in shock and fear, in living from day to day. If they survive, what will they pass on to their own kids? What trauma is being baked into their DNA?
My father grew up in poverty. His parents were not well educated. Yet he and his 2 brothers all went to university. When I asked him why all 3 of them became ministers, he said that his family knew that the only way out of poverty was through education. He had an uncle who had gone to university and become a minister, and he was their role model. Many cultures have a similar understanding of education as the key to climbing up and out of your circumstances. Jamaican parents drum it into their kids heads early. There are children around the world who routinely walk ten miles or more to and from school. In one part of the world children risk death to get to school. The journey involves ropes to get them across chasms, steep climbs and miles through overgrown terrain, just to obtain an education.
At times it seems impossible to fix this world. The conflicts that have gone on for generations; the injustice and oppression that continue to be perpetrated; the legacy of colonialism that has left societies stratified and impoverished; how can we make a change? But it is good to remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu). We can begin by trying to make a difference in our own lives, and then working outward in circles, until like ripples each action influences another.
It can begin with those unsolicited acts of kindness, by getting involved in volunteer work, by committing yourself to make the most of your own opportunities. We have a responsibility to the greater good of society to be the best person we can be, to make sure our light shines brightly in the dark corners and lights the way for others.
This Friday morning I hope you are rocking a look that reflects your inner beauty. I hope you are seeing that your kids have inherited some powerful DNA from you and your foreparents, and you are able to change the world one smile at a time.
Have a great weekend Family!