The Worst Thing

For some reason, people tend to open up and pour their hearts out to me. I was just in a situation where a person was helping me at a local business where I go fairly often. I excitedly asked about her child who has just started attending my alma mater this fall.

She broke down and told me that a new boyfriend had changed her daughter, made her more judgmental. The child wants to go to a different school because this university, my university, is “too liberal.” The girl bad mouthed all sorts of groups of people to her mom before storming off. And the mom, who is very open, somewhat “liberal” and a kind, loving Christian, is appalled. She didn’t raise her child to hate others. And now the girl hates “these awful sinners” and wants nothing to do with her family in the process. The mom is devastated.

I keep going back to that conversation and the thing that hits me over and over (besides the obvious) is that college is a time to meet people and make friends. It is a time to really get to know yourself and the world around you. Closing yourself off from “certain types” of people is not going to let that happen.

I won’t get into all of the problems of a controlling boyfriend. That is fodder for writing on another day. But I keep thinking the worst thing is all of the wonderful people this girl will never meet with all of her rage and prejudices.

I want to think if we could boil all of the rhetoric down to real people, creative people, loving people, funny people, amazing people- individuals who can enrich our lives so much and get rid of the labels, maybe we could overcome some of this division and hate. I am such a better person for all of the young, vibrant, creative and different people I met when I went back to school. Even if I don’t keep in contact with them all, they changed me and I hope I changed some of them.

I want to think that the next generation will be different, that time with people of different beliefs, races, sexes and ideals will teach the next generation to do better. I keep thinking things are getting better. But the divide seems to be growing. Then I see a local political candidate say that the constitution is only for Christians and I watch him win. I am told about a young girl “taught” by her boyfriend to hate gay people and black people and I realize that change is too slow coming.

And I realize that the worst things might still be ahead.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.