The Block Island Times

Tattoos or rumors

By Sheridan Fisher Carley | Aug 08, 2012

Which would you prefer? Both are alike — they last forever!

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Block Island is a very small community that loves its children. I know our hope is that all our children feel safe, nurtured, happy and secure in their environment. Yet our goals for them are not always protected. As I’ve seen more people with tattoos, I’ve asked them why they get them. Most love the idea of putting their favorite picture or sayings on their body. A tattoo is something in which many people feel ownership, and love the art of individuality.

But what about the tattoos we have that are emotional? That are given to people who don’t want them? I am sure everyone has been guilty of passing on a rumor. Some are joyous and happy. Some are mean and vindictive. Some are just plain ignorant. But who pays the price of the emotional tattoo? Sometimes it is innocent children, sometimes families, sometimes it is a community.

Not long ago, a friend came to visit me. While we were talking, a man stopped by to drop something off. The man must have forgotten the relationship of my friend to a child he wanted to talk about — she is his aunt. He passed on a rumor and a judgment about this child.

When I asked where he had heard this unpleasant thing, he said his wife had told him. It was clear that we were not the only people this guy talked to.

When he left, I saw the anger and hurt in my friend’s eyes. She asked me if I knew how angry she was. I replied, “That guy is brain dead!”

This rumor circulated like a game of telephone. It became a horrible embellishment of the actual truth, and the child paid a bitter price. And so now he has an emotional tattoo, and it’s just as permanent as one made of ink.

People still refer to this child as a bad apple, even though he’s still a teenager.

No one is perfect. We all have made mistakes along the way. I’ve known this boy since birth, and the label is unkind, unnecessary and wrong.

We all as a community must take accountability for our actions. We must be aware that the examples we set for young children will be carried as examples through life. To label any child is vindictive and cruel, and will cause emotional harm.

My father Thomas used to tell me: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see, and you still will not know the truth. Be careful in speaking and remember you must keep things to yourself so you are never accused of being hurtful.”

I try to remember this and hope this article will remind us all when we communicate with others to be kind in our assessments of others and not to pass on mean rumors or untruths.

‘Til the next time…

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