Lessons I Learned From Maury

I watched the Maury Show yesterday – about 3/4 of it anyway.  I had a short time before I had to go to work and was flipping through the channels when the loud yelling caught my attention.  Something just made me leave the T.V. on that channel, and within a few minutes I was hooked.  I had to know if Terry or Eddy or whatever his name was was really the father.  I was drawn into the drama and watched almost in disbelief that a show like this would really be on television every day.  I remember watching this show many years ago, and I think at that time it was pretty much on par with other daytime talk shows, but obviously that has changed.

I would be interested in knowing how much of the drama is exaggerated.  I have a feeling that these people really live like this though or they wouldn’t be so good at the yelling, insults, interrupting, and blaming.  I suppose in some ways Maury is doing them a service as he also exploits their situations because they may never go and have that DNA test done.  And the audience – where are they coming from?  Are they also getting paid to be there or is it just a fun, entertaining way to spend a day?  I guess it’s something they will never forget.

After watching the show for a short time I began to feel my heart racing, and I felt almost sick.  I kept watching though because needed to hear the outcome.  The yelling and finger-pointing and excuses and blaming never let up, and I really didn’t feel well for the rest of the show.  So. . . as an experiment I went to take my blood pressure.  Just as I figured, it was about 25 points above what it usually is.  I waited 10 minutes and took it again, and it was back to normal.  All but one of the people on the show yesterday were very overweight, and if this way of relating was really a lifestyle for them, it’s obviously horrible for their health – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  What about the beautiful children  we saw on the screen?  They almost don’t stand a chance.  The levels of stress hormones in their bodies must be elevated most of the time, and they’re learning that life is a difficult, scary, painful struggle.

So, even though I kind of wished I hadn’t wasted my time watching Maury, it gave me a lot of food for thought.  I may be a little naive, but I grew up in a household with a lot of yelling, name-calling, even physical violence, so I know these things happen.  I’ve been removed from it for so long though that I’d forgotten the way it makes you feel.  We can watch it and laugh and be entertained and be glad that we aren’t those people.  We can turn it off and forget about it and go on with our normal lives.  There are households like this all over in every town and city though, and we have to at least have compassion on them.  These people weren’t just raised in a healthy, loving environment and then decided to become angry, frustrated, violent, confused people.  It’s all they have ever known, and someone needs to show them a better way. I think it’s better for that someone to have known some of the heart-ache, sadness, and lack of love that these people experienced, but it could be anyone who thinks they’re worth the time and effort. 

As a volunteer in a restorative justice program, we work with juvenile offenders in a circle process.  One of the advantages of this process is that we use a talking piece which is passed around the circle and no one talks unless they have this talking piece.  Circle is also a place where everyone is equal, has an equal say, and is encouraged to be their “best self”.  For some young people this isn’t a problem, but some of them hardly know they have a “best self”.  Through patience and modeling and acceptance, they usually learn to open up and express themselves and even show anger but in a way that contributes to healing and taking responsibility.  It doesn’t always work – some people aren’t ready for it – but when it does, it is a beautiful thing.

I wish everyone could experience something like this – almost the opposite of what I witnessed watching Maury yesterday.  At least we can take time for the people who cross our paths, acknowledge their worth, smile at them, and possibly even befriend and mentor them. Yes, I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own lives, but I also believe we were put on earth to help each other and lift each other up (sometimes the best way to help someone is to help them believe in themselves and their own power to change their lives).  There’s a lot of lifting that needs to be done.

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