Don't you hate it when someone says, "I know how you feel" when they don't? There are certain things that happen in life where you can only truly FEEL the feelings surrounding such events if you have personally experienced them. Oh, don't get me wrong; I appreciate tea and sympathy from a well-meaning samaritan. But don't tell me you know, unless you have been there yourself. You gotta be in THE SHOES, my friend. IN THE SHOES.
It's like when my Dad died unexpectedly. I heard a lot of "I know how you feel..." from people who were being kind. I accepted their sympathy with grace, (hopefully), knowing that they still had both of their parents - even grandparents, and had not yet suffered such a huge loss in their lives... yet. (Everyone joins the club eventually.) These "I know how you feel(s)" were always followed with "BUTS". I know how you feel, but... life goes on; but...the pain lessens with time; but... he had a good life; etc., etc. They meant well, and I appreciated these people who were trying to make me feel better about a terrible loss which, to be candid, I probably will never recover from.
But also at the time of my father's death, I received a card from the parent of one of my students. It said simply, "I'm sorry. I know how you feel. I lost my dad two months ago." And I burst into tears as I read this. Now THIS person knew how I felt. We were kindred spirits, both with unwanted memberships in the Dead Dads Club.
That was sixteen years ago. Since that time, many of my good-hearted, well-meaning friends have unfortunately joined the Club and yes, now they really KNOW how I felt. They know it well.
When Nexus and the Onamia city government first planned to deposit their sex offenders in our backyards, (thus ruining our neighborhood) we heard many "I know how you feel(s)," "BUTS" included. I know how you feel but... life goes on; but... in three years you'll wonder what it was you were worried about; but... those boys are well-behaved in church; but... we're saving jobs; I know how you feel, but it's for the good of the community.
You know how I feel? No. You don't.
One of the worst "I know(s)" came from Avis Grosslein, Steve Bye's sister who lives in Falmouth, Massachusetts and, along with her husband Marvin, owns the 38 acre building site where Nexus proposes to erect the $10,000,000 sex offender facility. I called her in a wasted attempt to explain how the decision to sell the property was devastating the neighborhood. I told her how we were all being affected - all of our lives being ruined in various ways. I explained how the city was breaking its own ordinances, etc. etc. Now you might call me naive (or a Bradbury Idiot), but part of me really believed that if she only knew the extent of the damage she was causing to me, my family, and my neighbors, that she would be shocked, even horrified, and of course, call off the deal with Nexus and "save" our neighborhood.
Instead, she responded, "I know how you feel, but that's Progress."
She went on to share a personal story of her own about how she was quite upset about a new neighbor building their new home on the property adjoining her back yard. She told me she could see it from her kitchen window. And oh how sad... there used to be the most lovely Ladyslippers on that property. "So I know exactly how you feel," she said.
"No. You don't. You and your brother are dumping 94 SEX OFFENDERS in our backyard. Apples and oranges," I said. (To me, that's like comparing the death of the bug that hit your windshield to the death of my father.)
Anyway, Avis snapped at me, "My brother is a SAINT! And whatever he decides, we stand behind him... He might not have gone to college, but he knows what he's doing." Avis then told me that she was very busy organizing "an event" and that she had calls to make and that she was "through talking". And of course, CLICK - she hung up on me. Not much tea and sympathy in her, I guess.
When I shared the story about my failed Grosslein conversation with members of the neighborhood (I call them the "Ka-tet"), they were not only sympathetic, I could see EMPATHY in their eyes. Chip said, "Unless someone has experienced what we've been through these past few months, there's no way they can understand how we feel."
And there it was. A new Club. The Done Deal, There's Nothing You Can Do About It, Here's Your Sex Offenders Club. Over here in Bradbury Township, we now hold an unwanted group membership to a club none of us would dream of joining if not forced to do so. However, there is a positive side: We all know that we all know how we all truly feel... and with no BUTS attached.
We FEEL the feelings. We wear the shoes.