That's us, and this is the main response I've seen to the unfortunate gorilla incident. "It's the mothers' fault. She should have been watching her child better. The zoo should have had more protective measures in place to keep this from happening." All true. Perhaps. And my own initial reaction was "How did that child get down there?" But our initial reactions should have been more along the lines of:
"That must have been really tough for that mother to go through. I bet she was really scared."
"It's really sad that the gorilla had to die."
"It's good that the child is safe and okay."
Instead, we respond with judgment. Why did the mother allow this to happen? We rush to place the blame and the first place that it goes is the one person who would need compassion and support the most in a situation like this. How would any of us feel or react if it were our child? Oh yeah, of course it wouldn't happen to us. We would have been watching our kids more closely, right?
It's like this with every story that comes across our news feeds. A teenager overdoses on heroin? Automatically the parents are at fault for not keeping a shorter leash on the kid and the government/police are at fault for not keeping the drugs off the street. The woman in front of you at the grocery store using food stamps? She should work harder and not leech off the tax payers' hard earned money. A couple gets divorced? They should have put more effort into making their marriage work. There is so little compassion for people who go through tough times and it is especially concerning because the majority of the situations we judge are ones that we know nothing more about than the paragraph or two we read on our facebook pages. A paragraph or two that is merely the opinion and perspective of the person writing it. And everyone has an opinion or two, and we all have to make sure to scream it loud enough so it's heard.
What you're not seeing, though, is that the teenager who overdosed had a tight-knit and supportive family and was raised well, but caved to peer-pressure wanting to "just try it once", and that's all it took to get addicted. (I'm sure most of you remember "trying" a thing or two once or thrice in your youth). And that kid tried multiple times to quit and the family tried multiple times to help. Instead of "why didn't they do more" we should be saying "how hard it must be for that family to go through that. What can we do to help them? How can we prevent this from continuing? What can we do to support those who are currently in this situation but trying to change it? How can we make it easier for people to help themselves? How can we provide the support so they want to help themselves."
The woman using food stamps? You're not seeing that she was laid-off from a well paying job and unemployment is barely making the rent, let alone all the other expenses required to support herself and her four children. Her ex husband pays support but had to take a pay cut due to slow work at his own job. She submits applications nearly every day and goes on multiple interviews every week. She is considering applying for financial aid to work towards a degree if nothing pans out soon. Her kids still need to eat, as does she. Her ex has taken on a part time job to try to help out, giving up time with his children to do so. What more should she be doing?
The divorced couple? There are many options for what happened to create that situation, so pick whichever makes you feel righteous.
The mother of the child who fell in the gorilla moat at the zoo? All it took was one second. The amount of time it takes to recover from a sneezing fit. When my boys were around the same age as this child one of them fell from the kitchen counter, head right on the ceramic tile. I was standing right there in front of them, not even one foot away. I hadn't turned my head. We were making a salad. I was teaching them, bringing them into the process of being involved in the preparation of our food. We were connecting. I never let them on the counter when I wasn't there and rarely even when I was there. Thankfully he was fine. Thankfully no one judged me. Everyone saw my fear, my worry, and they knew accidents happen. I'm sure, however, if someone posted on Facebook "Womans' child falls off kitchen counter, rushed to the emergency room", there would have been plenty of blame to go around. "Where was his mother??? She should have been watching him. It's all her fault. She's a witch! Burn her!"
His mother was right there and already took plenty of blame before you started judging her.
It is really sad that the gorilla had to die. And I am glad that the child is going to be okay. His mother will probably hold him tighter than ever from now on. She will probably wake up every day grateful beyond measure that he is okay. She will also spend a lot of time judging herself, even without the help of the world wide web. But it was a terrible accident and what place do we have to judge?
There is one thing that we can all take from this, and many other situations, and try to improve upon. The minute that urge to judge creeps in, ask yourself if you have handled every challenging situation in your own life perfectly. Put yourself in the other person shoes and ask how you would prefer to have others respond to you in a similar situation. Basically, try to have more compassion.
We could also stop caging wild animals and allow them to live in their intended habitat.