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House arrest and karma

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Mr. F. is a grown man, almost 50 years old, likes to listen loudly to pop music on his Discman and is always exceptionally happy about the afternoon coffees (with min. 300 pieces of sugar); he loves any kind of cake or sweet pastry, his favourite animal is the cow, especially the spotted ones he likes. Mr. F. has bright, very small blue-gray eyes and is usually endlessly friendly and put up, daily routines give him support and security. Mr. F. has a cognitive disability and lives in a special needs home. In the society in which we live, we refer to Mr. F. as a person with a disability. He is probably handicapped with regard to the demands we place on his ability to perform. Mr. F. receives a full IV pension as well as additional benefits and has been living in the special needs home for many years. He has a job sorting out toothpicks, wich he is doing for over 20 years. I don't know much about Mr. F.'s childhood and what I do know is nothing nice. He does not talk about it.

For two years, I have represented Mr. F. as a professional legal guardian on behalf of the KESB (child and adult protection authority). Last week the guardian of the institution, where Mr. F. lives called me. She described to me that Mr. F. had been tense for days, could hardly sleep and was difficult to calm down. The out-of-town visits and the upcoming spring camp had to be cancelled due to Covid , which was obviously affecting him severely. She asked me to talk to him. The summer camps are very, very important to Mr. F. He does not receive any visits from his family or relatives, so the special needs home's community activities are essential for his social life.

Mr. F. was terribly upset and could hardly be calmed down. In the course of the conversation, I realized that he had the feeling that he was being punished, that he was therefore now "grounded" and therefore not allowed to go to the camp. House arrest, punishment and being locked up seemed to be familiar to him... After a while, he described to me, still in tears, that he always let himself out more coffee than was actually allowed at the coffee machine. Apparently, he was in great concern that this "cheat" had now triggered the whole Covid situation and promised me high and holy never to do that again. With great effort I could assure Mr. F. that he had done nothing bad and he, despite this "cheating at the coffee machine", in my opinion a great guy and that the camp could not take place now, had nothing to do with that. Whether he could really grasp that, I do not know.

What I do know is that the conversation triggered many thoughts in me. Mr. F. obviously thought a lot about his actions and the reactions to them. However, what about me? Do I worry about my behaviour as much?

Karma means reaction to action. Every action triggers a reaction. Mr. F. has understood this and that although his intellect does not correspond to mine. I pause and thank Mr. F. for reminding me to think about my behaviour more thoroughly. It is easy for me to avoid this confrontation in my daily life. I have the privilege and opportunity to live my life with a great deal of activity and stimulation. Now, through the time in a pandemic, this activity and therefore stimulation of all the senses I want is limited. Therefore, I decide to do what I had to do as a child when I needed to think about my behaviour. I sat down on my chair (as a child it was the silent stairs) and thought. I have to admit, it was not at all easy for me to confront what I must have done and been doing that I'm not exactly proud of.

I am a classic "black and white thinker". If I consider something unfair, bad or not in line with my way of thinking, I condemn it quickly and almost uncompromisingly. Also rather temperamental I can exalt and vent about it for hours. I like to hide behind my social and ethically "correct" attitude or a witty description. Nevertheless, I create such a negative action, which brings us back to action and reaction... I decide to take an example from Mr. F. and vow to do better:

I resolve to pay more attention to exactly this action in the future, and to do so before I go ballistic. I will try to give my contribution to a better reaction in this society. A vegan diet, to dispose ecologically, to not buy to much unnecessary things, to engage myself socially and voluntarily, that is easy for me, to show understanding and tolerance for other ways of thinking and functioning, however, not.

That's where change begins, isn't it? Where it is difficult and unpleasant...

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