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Lions, Tigers and Labels … Oh My

I admit I’m a bit ashamed that I’m proud and relieved my fourth-grade daughter is a Lion.

If I actually lived up to the ideals I should, I wouldn’t care.

But ideals and reality aren’t always consistent.  And I care. I care a lot that she is a Lion instead of a Tiger. Thankfully, she’s the first to set me straight about how ridiculous I’m being.

To quote her, “Tigers aren’t stupid. They just learn at a different level than the Lions.”  She says this with the utmost seriousness. And she is serious. Her best friend is a Tiger.

Which makes me wonder how long they will be best friends, because it seems like the whole world is divided into Lions and Tigers.

Well, maybe not Lions and Tigers, but liberals and conservatives, haves and have-nots, the pretty people and the not-so pretty people, the Christians and everyone else. And these divisions seem to be pulling us apart.

Pulling us apart to the extent that I get the feeling many of us are living life as one big competition in which we are all vying for the top spot. And, instead of trying to help others get to that spot so we can all enjoy it, we are pushing each other out-of-the-way.

No wonder bullying has become such an issue with children.  They are simply modeling what they see the adults doing: cutting down, belittling and disrespecting those who don’t think, live, act, look like, enjoy or believe what we do.

I know some of this can be attributed to human nature, but that doesn’t make it right.

 And what people seem to forget is how life and circumstances are constantly changing. And when circumstances change, so do those labels.

All you have to do is open up a high school year book, to see how ridiculous labels are.  I imagine the majority of people carried some kind of simple descriptor back in the day  – jock, nerd, bookworm, preppie, druggie, punk, skater. But unless you live in a vacuum, I can’t imagine that the label you had as a teen carries much weight now.   If it does, I’d certainly be doing some serious self-evaluation.

Hopefully, by the time you reach my age, you realize labels don’t even come close to describing any of us, because we are all a mixed up combination of personality, circumstances, passions, decisions, mistakes, religion, race, relationships, careers and family.

Maybe that’s why people are so quick to label – giving someone a simple description easily removes them from being like us – complicated people.  And once we’ve removed any part of ourselves from someone, then it’s easier to blame them for the ills of the world.

Which is why I so appreciate my daughter putting me straight with the whole Lions and Tigers situation when I quickly fell into the trap of identifying my daughter by her Lion label as one of the “smart kids.”

Granted, she demonstrated just how smart she is by quickly recognizing that her friend, along with the other Tigers, is much more than the score she can achieve on a reading or math test.  But my daughter also demonstrated a deeper understanding of how people are way too complicated for simple labels.

Here’s hoping she, and the rest of her generation, can teach the rest of the world, too.