My teacher often states, "life is school." Sometimes the biggest lessons arrive unexpectedly and unasked for. Today, while waiting for a delayed commuter train, I watched a middle-aged East Asian man ride down the escalator with an appearance and demeanor rather like my father's when I was a kid. It led me to consider the human, vulnerable side of my dad, trying to make his way in an unfriendly and often foreign world.
I specifically recall overhearing him ask my mother after getting his first job after completing his Master's, "it says dress is business casual, what's business casual?" Indeed, how can an immigrant know customs of dress and appearance without a mentor (in those pre-internet times)?
Yet all the trading of vicious insults and emotional manipulation through my youth were inexcusable on his side: I was only a kid, worse, a teen, but when I'm 40 and 50 years old, I plan to be prepared for the atrocities of reality, and to be able to recover where I fall from hurt into suffering. Most of all I am preparing to become incapable of harming another with my words and deeds.
Where does that leave me with my father? I believe my work to understand both of us helps me extend love and compassion not only to those close to me, whose worst behavior I have witnessed, but to strangers around me, because everyone walks the unfriendly, real world, receiving hurts, wanting only happiness, but often falling into suffering.