Sun, Wind, and Fire

I’ve been binge-watching Mad Men recently, having completely bypassed it when it was on TV.

In one of the episodes I watched last night there was a scene where creative guru (and complicated human being) Don Draper takes Dr Faye Miller, a psychologist who has been conducting consumer research panels, to dinner.

Don asks Faye how she gets participants to make such personal revelations during the sessions, and in reply she recalls Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and the Sun. I’ve probably heard it before, but I’ve been thinking a lot recently about respectful communication to make effective change so it really resonated. The fable goes like this:

The North Wind is causing chaos with its icy blasts. This annoys the Sun, so it challenges the North Wind to a competition to see who can get a man to take off his coat.

The Wind thinks the competition is easy, so blows really hard and with all its might – but the man just pulls his coat around him more tightly.

Then the Sun has its turn. It shines so brightly and warmly on the man that he soon takes off his coat.

The point of reciting this fable?

So often we think the way to get things done, or to make others listen is with fierceness: a strong wind.

A couple of recent examples spring to mind.

The first is the memes about Remembrance Day poppies that have been doing the rounds on Facebook. You have probably seen them, or heard about them: they say things like telling people who don’t want to wear a poppy to eff off and live in another country. Of course, there is a strong implication that those who don’t want to wear the poppies are of a certain culture and religion, and that they all want to do us harm.

There are many reasons why I find this saddening: the main one is that while sharing such messages may well by some be in the spirit of honouring veterans, and the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in conflict, it inflames hatred.

Those images and slogans don’t pause to consider some basic facts – like first and foremost whether it is actually true! – and what people of all cultures and religions think about wearing the red poppy.

There are those who wear a white poppy as well as or instead of the red poppy. The white poppy signifies peace, and can also be worn in honour of all the countless civilians who have perished in wars around the world.

Others wear a purple poppy in recognition of all the animals who died supporting the armed forces.

Many people choose to wear a red poppy, some choose to wear a poppy of another colour, while others choose not to wear a poppy at all. I personally choose to wear a red poppy, and am proud to do so. The key concept here: choice. We are privileged to live in a country where we are able to make free choices about what we do.

Let’s remember Remembrance Day, whatever your views on conflict and war is about honouring those who have died in war. Telling people who have alternative views to go and live in another country, or to send individuals death threats, is indefensible. Belligerent behaviour only fans the flames of hatred, which causes more pain, loss, sorrow, conflict, and in the most extreme cases leads to more war.

Surely it is better to talk about the reasons why people choose to wear a poppy of a particular colour, or not at all? Open dialogue can lead to understanding – and even changes in behaviour as a result of that understanding.

It is shining warmly on something to open it up, rather than blowing a fierce wind leading to the hatches being battened firmly down.

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? We can all make faux pas, say something insensitive or completely inappropriate. I’ve no doubt I’ve done so, and I’ve been at the receiving end, too, especially since Hugo died.

I’ll admit there have been times I have got upset and angry as a result. Anger that has transformed me from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk in the blink of an eye.

But it doesn’t get me anywhere. The anger (while a natural response) upsets and exhausts me, and puts the other person on the defensive, creating an impasse and usually further bad feeling.

Fighting fire with fire doesn’t help anyone.

I now try my very best to explain why whatever that person has said or done has upset me, or why it is insensitive. They don’t always listen, granted. Sometimes they may make an apology that seems insincere and adds further fuel to the fire.

Sometimes, though, the explanation can be like sunshine thawing ice. A relationship is built, the learning and understanding disseminates. Behaviours and attitudes can change, and for the better.

Doesn’t that make it worth making the effort?

Throw kindness around like confetti. Yep, some of it may blow away on a fierce wind, never to be seen again. It’s made of paper, so it can get burnt in the midst of inflamed passions.

But I throw it anyway, because I like it – and because some of it will reach where it needs to be.

Here endeth the parable of sun, wind, and fire.



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10 Comments on Sun, Wind, and Fire

  1. Becky Cowley
    November 10, 2015 at 8:32 pm (5 years ago)

    I couldn’t agree more about those awful meme, they’re designed to stir division and hatred which is the complete opposite of what I feel the poppy symbolises. I have never seen people wearing white poppies, think I will have to search one out for next year.
    I love the idea of spreading kindness like confetti, I think we should all aim to do that x
    Becky Cowley recently posted…FireMy Profile

    • Leigh
      November 12, 2015 at 9:40 am (5 years ago)

      Absolutely! I think that’s what people don’t realise, Becky. Those memes are designed to stir passion – but of the unhelpful kind. We should all aim to spread kindness I think xxx

  2. Kerrie McGiveron
    November 8, 2015 at 11:19 am (5 years ago)

    Couldn’t agree more, Leigh. Lovely post. Sometimes I wear a poppy, sometimes not. I wear a white poppy peace badge quite a lot. As you know, war is my subject and so I think about this more than most, I remember the war dead constantly and with everything I write for uni I try and convey this. My point is, I show my respect in lots of ways, and so I choose when and if to wear a poppy. And I think everyone else should just have their choice. It’s the closed, narrow-mindedness, blind nationalist, race/religion-hate that leads people to post these hurtful memes that cause conflict in the first place. xxx
    Kerrie McGiveron recently posted…Don’t PhotoShop My Life!My Profile

    • Leigh
      November 9, 2015 at 10:36 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you lovely Kerrie. War is my subject too (absolutely fascinating!) which means I cannot help but view these discussions in the context of hatred fuelling more conflict. We need more kindness and understanding xxx

  3. Sara | mumturnedmom
    November 6, 2015 at 8:05 pm (5 years ago)

    Couldn’t agree more. No poppies here, although I will be honest and say that I generally wore a white poppy in the UK and often had to defend my decision not to wear a red one. My sons will be attending the Veteran’s Day flag folding ceremony next Wednesday in their capacity as Cub Scouts, and I think it’s so important for them to take part and to understand what it’s all about. Frankly, I’ve been horrified by some of the posts/comments I’ve seen on Facebook recently. As Tim rightly points out, poppies are to remember those who have fought to give us freedom,and to attack those who choose to express that freedom in different ways is offensive and ignorant. Thank you so much for sharing this post with #ThePrompt x
    Sara | mumturnedmom recently posted…The Prompt 89My Profile

    • Leigh
      November 9, 2015 at 10:33 am (5 years ago)

      Yes, me too Sara. I love history and I am horrified because I cannot help but make the connection between hatred of those of a certain religion now, and during WW2. Why can’t we learn? xxx

  4. Lisa from Lisa's Life
    November 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm (5 years ago)

    I got a few strange looks at work this morning as it seemed to others I wasn’t visibly wearing a poppy. Even though it was neither Remembrance Sunday, or Remembrance Day itself, I felt compelled to explain myself.

    I had a poppy yesterday. It had a pin. I lost it. Mindful of the fact I was spending a lot of the day around a sensitive dog and my baby nephew, I didn’t replace it. I thought I’d get one today. Then I remembered I had one of those brooch versions from a couple of years ago so I put that on. Apparently too small to count!

    The poppy seller box at work also has wristbands this year so I bought one of those as it won’t come off and do any harm, but, will that count as being respectful enough? Heaven knows!

    My friend’s mum is a nightmare for sharing those memes, I’m sure she doesn’t actually read what half of them say!

    On another note, I love you referencing an Aesop’s Fable, I think I learnt more about reasonable behaviour from those books than anywhere else growing up! 🙂

    You keep throwing confetti, lovely girl x
    Lisa from Lisa’s Life recently posted…The Prompt: FireMy Profile

    • Leigh
      November 9, 2015 at 10:32 am (5 years ago)

      I always lose my poppy because of the pin, Lisa! It’s good they have the wristbands and brooches these days but we focus on the traditional paper versions. They are the emblem of Remembrance and that’s fine, but we shouldn’t forget that not wearing one doesn’t mean you don’t care. Aesop’s Fables are brilliant aren’t they? Thanks for commenting xxx

  5. Tim
    November 6, 2015 at 11:21 am (5 years ago)

    Well said. Some of those memes are astonishing in their level of ignorance and the degree to which things can be warped and ‘spun’. They seem to ignore the fact that the poppies are a symbol to help us remember the sacrifice that hundreds of thousands have made in wartime to preserve peace, and that this is both a sacrifice worth making and representative of principles that are worth upholding. It’s about giving people the choice to live freely. Instead, these memes aim to enforce compliance rather than choice. Does not wearing a poppy define your personal beliefs or make you a lesser person? If I choose not to wear a poppy (although, for the record, I do) and, say, donate £100 to the British Legion, apparently that would make me somehow morally inferior. If people want to believe that, fine. I happen to disagree with such sweeping – and in my mind dangerously offensive – assumptions.
    Tim recently posted…A letter from dad: 5 reasons why I blogMy Profile

    • Leigh
      November 9, 2015 at 10:30 am (5 years ago)

      I often have to swallow my frustration when I see these memes! They are at best misleading and at worst dangerous. We should be proud of our freedom to choose. Thanks for commenting, Tim x


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