By Juliana Di Leonardo
Storybooks tell us that monsters are fanciful creatures adorned with long sharp teeth, grotesque bodies, batlike wings, claws, and red beady eyes; an image so distinct that it would be impossible to fathom such a beast without ill intent, but as we learned from the animated original television series Scooby-Doo, humans are the real monsters. In every episode, the hodgepodge crew, and their dog Scooby, realize that the supernatural ghost or monster they uncover is a criminal in disguise. Today, it has become evident that the monsters we fear are not ones under beds or hiding in closets but actually the ones in plain sight.
Every day we are given the opportunity to live a life of compassion, but daily struggles can shape an individual’s mind into a place where kindness feels more like a hindrance. Survival mode can become a state of being for these people making them more focused on meeting their own needs rather than thinking of themselves as team players with society. Humans aren’t inherently bad but instead, have the capability of engaging in wrong action when under extreme stress or experiencing desperation.
Today, as attention to mental health becomes more prevalent, it would seem safe to assume that our society would be more understanding and supportive towards individuals that struggle, but instead, there has been an increase in cancel culture, shaming, and painting members of communities as bad persons while impeding any opportunity to redeem themselves. We contribute to their demise and like novelists, we invent, breed and forge human creatures and make them into real-life ghouls.
When we see someone making decisions that are not of right thought or action it is our responsibility to lead by example, keep peers accountable, and offer a hand when needed. It is important to show others that taking responsibility for one’s actions is the first step toward positive change. Our community members should be there to lift rather than snuff out the people who need a helping hand. Every day given to us is an opportunity to do better.
As we journey through life, we encounter scenarios that wound us emotionally, breaking us down into unseen pieces that require us to repair ourselves as if we were Kintsugi pottery, not hiding our cracks but highlighting them with platinum, silver, or gold. It is from our life experiences that we learn lessons that make us stronger and more beautiful with time.
For this week’s Anuvrat, I encourage you to show kindness, ahimsa, towards individuals who are struggling to make good decisions and to help guide them in ways to make their life and the life of their communities more peaceful and fruitful. Together we can transition our “monsters” back into humans and create a world filled with less fear and hatred and more kindness and understanding.
Juliana Di Leonardo is the Vice President of Humane Long Island. She is a yoga and ballroom dance instructor, model, and artist. Her advocacy for animals exploited by the fashion industry was credited in the 2021 documentary “The Face of Fashion is Fear” and recognized by PETA with a Hero for Coyotes award.