Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Really Know a Word?

A mini-van passed me the other day on a busy Anchorage road. Mom (presumably) and kids were chugging along and eventually passed me on a hill as I became stuck behind a city bus.

As traffic cleared and dirty white van moved right in front of me, I noticed a bland, black-on-white sticker in the middle of the back door. "Tolerance is for those with no conviction."

I always think I know what words mean, yet these two, tolerance and conviction, combined in one sentence bugged me. Bugged me enough, in fact, that I went home and chewed on it before finally going to my big dictionary.

"Tolerance: Sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices conflicting with one's own. An allowable deviaion from a standard." I went one step further and looked up sympathy, even though Yukon and I refer to the term almost daily with respect to Wolf. "Feel loyalty, support, or sharing feelings of another's. Showing sensitivity to..."

Hmmm, so to be tolerant means sucking up one's own personal beliefs, understanding the feelings beneath another's, even if it conflicts mightily with ours? Heavy.

"Conviction: A strong persuasion or belief, in a state of being convicted, and compelled to admit the truth." Even heavier, man.

I was interviewed by PDX FM a few weeks ago and host Doug Zanger mentioned that my writing style is strongly formed through my convictions of raising a child such as Wolf. Truly I feel compelled to share a story not often revealed by most moms; a painful, gritty roadmap of the life as Erin Kirkland knows it, full of good and bad but ultimately real. In that respect I am convicted to admit the truth that in my heart I am not going to know it all.

But where does tolerance live? I need only to go to my last post to find that. As a follow up, btw, this morning little W. sat in the lobby of school, waiting while his parents met with the principal, nervously picking at his coat, arms resting on a too-big table. My mind drifted back to a similar scene almost 11 years ago when my own son sat waiting outside the school office while I negotiated his return to school after a "fight" that looked, I found out, exactly like the one involving my youngest son three days ago.

W. deserves tolerance, but also my conviction. Conviction to support, believing everybody deserves a chance given the right tools, and tolerance to help them achieve.

Am I weak for believing this? I know my analogy is not the meaning behind the bumper sticker I saw the other day, but it could be. I know politics and religion and morals and ethics take different forms depending upon one's beliefs, but in my opinion, starting with our own little stories of tolerance and conviction lead us toward the bigger ones.

And that, children, is how we are able to believe both. Of that I am convinced.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

I can think of a bumper sticker word that might suit that back of that person's car nicely...It wouldn't qualify as tolerance, but it would probably feel good for juuuust a moment. :)

Too bad someone with a good vocabulary seems to have a closed mind. How disappointing.