“…we choose wisely our battles, we choose wisely our audience, and we choose wisely our timing.”
I’m boarding a flight to go home for the holidays—Guatemala to New York with a long layover in Miami.
I’m always the last to board. I want to minimize my time on the radiation-filled cylinder, which is going to miraculously hurtle me through the air, and then land lightly and gracefully on terrafirma, a continent away.
I pass row after row, overwhelmed with whiffs of perfume. 24, 25, 26, 27… I reach my row and glance to the left: there’s an empty seat sandwiched between a gentleman on the aisle and a friend of mine at the window seat. What a small world!
Sam is a favorite of mine for her ability to balance her sharp wit with a large, compassionate heart. She’s a fiery feminist who I like to provoke to test the extremes of her stances. She’s smart and can usually work her way out of the corners in which I’m trying to paint her. After the excitement of the reunion passes, I noticed her energy is less than vibrant, not at all typical of her boisterous way. Upon light prodding, the floodgates open.
Returning home for the holidays brews anxiety into the hearts of many, especially when it’s a blue child returning to the red homes in which they grew up.
Sam is a proud lesbian and delights in any opportunity to confront “haters”—her word for people who vocalize dissent for her way of being. Reunions with her family quickly digress into heated yelling matches.
Her father sits on his throne at the head of the table, talking about the merits of the current Trump administration, railing against female and gay rights, while she yells back about the hypocrisy of “standing for freedom” while at the same time oppressing minorities.
“Every year is the same,” she tells me.
“How boring,” I respond. She’s taken aback. I know she wants me to side with her, agreeing with the hardships the gay community has faced, presumably since the beginning of humanity. And, while I do compassionately support the cause, there’s another topic at hand—family harmony.
“Choose your battles, choose your audience, choose your timing,” I tell her.
“Your father isn’t going to change with confrontation. Hell, he’s probably never going to change at all. Deal with it. The older people get, the more rigid they become. Take your energy, your heat, your passion, and put it where it has a chance to make real change. Not at a family reunion but in a public forum, perhaps. And when you’re home, in your dad’s house, smile and tell him you love him, no matter what he says, no matter how big of an ass he’s being. This is how to defuse a bully. No matter how loud he yells, just smile and nod, and remember inside that you love him. He’ll bore of his tirades, or he won’t, but at least you can have a peaceful family visit.”
Two weeks later, after a delightful family reunion of my own, I’m on my way back to Guatemala. As I make my way down another perfume infused airplane cabin, I receive a text from Sam: “You were right…Thank you.”
I have plenty of opinions, just ask my wife. But I find that one of the arts of being a good person is to love those whom you disagree with most.
Everyone of us is on a path to the same place, and we’re all at different places along that path. Everyone you ever meet is another beautiful being, perhaps misguided, but walking that same path. Our place is not to judge, but to support. By yelling at your father for his silly ideas, you’re not supporting his path, nor your own.
We show support by unconditionally loving, demonstrating tolerance, and showing compassion. This is not to suggest that we always silence ourselves for the sake of harmony. Instead, we choose wisely our battles, we choose wisely our audience, and we choose wisely our timing. In this way, we’ll find the time for meaningful discussions and we’ll find other times for harmonious family reunions.
This is a time to eat, drink and be merry! Happy holidays!
Author: Coby Hadas
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Emily Bartran
Social editor: Waylon Lewis