The fight continues.
Through the course of my life, I’ve seen walls of prejudice, bigotry, and hatred crumble and fall. It wasn’t a fast process, but gradually ideas and opinions changed, there was greater understanding and tolerance. Neither was it a painless process, and many people suffered many indignities to bring about those changes, but they believed the effort was worth it.
The past few years, more and more, I’m seeing a regression to earlier intolerance and violence. And, tragically, those whose responsibility it is to provide leadership in resisting such negative change are not only failing to step up, but often actively seem to incite it.
I don’t know what will come during the rest of my days on earth. I hope reason returns, and quickly. Until then, Thank You to those of you who refuse to fall prey to the insanity.
Thank You to those who look at the people around you and lend a helping hand when it is needed.
Thank You to those who commandeer pickup trucks to shuttle wounded to hospitals.
Thank You to those who give of their own time and money to send aid to an island in desperate straits, whose own government not only has failed them, but mocked them while doing so.
Thank You to those who waded in to help after the devastation of Texas, Florida and the numerous Caribbean islands that were unable to withstand nature’s assaults.
Thank You to those who hold doors for people, smile at the overworked person assisting you in a place of business, or offer encouragement and aid to a parent struggling with a child in meltdown.
Thank You for seeing pain and trying to relieve it as best you can. Thank You for refusing to join the mindless masses who turn a blind eye or think ‘warm thoughts’ replaces a helping hand.
We are the family of mankind. All families have squabbles, but this family needs to remember that despite the problems, we are all in this together. We all need someone and we all have something worthwhile to give.
In the past twenty years or so, it has become common for some group or another to want an apology for how their ancestors were treated by someone else’s ancestors. We should apologize to Native Americans because of what our ancestors did to them in coming to America, or apologize to descendants of slaves for their ancestors having been enslaved in the first place, or Germany apologize to the world for Nazis and Hitler and World War II.
The trouble is, what does that accomplish? It doesn’t change history one iota. More important is how we conduct ourselves now. Maybe my ancestors had slaves, or maybe they didn’t. Maybe if they did they mistreated them, or maybe they didn’t. Nothing I say or do will change that, but I can decide how I will act toward others, be they black, Native American or anything else.
If I’m going to apologize, it should be for what I did wrong, and could therefore have prevented if I made different choices. Otherwise, my apology has little meaning or effect. And I shouldn’t be wantonly doing things, thinking that an after-the-fact apology makes it “all better”, as so many public figures and celebrities do. It’s like those people who say “pardon my French” after they swear, but make no effort not to swear in the first place. The apology is simply meant to absolve them of the wrongdoing and allow them to go on their merry way.
We can do better, and should. I can do better, and will.
Just for today, let’s all try not to say anything mean, cruel, thoughtless or unkind. Then, if we survive restraining our vitriol today, we can do it again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day, ad infinitum.
Who’s with me on this?
The past few years, I’ve noticed what, to me, is a disturbing trend, particularly in the workplace. Words that would never have been used in polite company now drip off the tongues of anyone and everyone, even in a professional environment. Maybe people think they are no longer ‘swear’ words, but ‘just words’. That isn’t true. The nature of the word didn’t change simply because it became allowable to use them more frequently and publicly. Somewhere along the line someone ‘uncensored’ them and the hordes have taken full advantage of that – men and women alike. But why?
It is as if they think swearing in some way validates them as a person, in their career or whatever. In truth, all it really does is offend many people around them, who are either too hampered by their own politeness to mention it, figure their comments would fall on deaf or hostile ears, or fear the many ‘laws’ that now protect people in being as offensive as they like.
Even aside from the offensiveness, I must say that it gives me a very poor opinion of those people overall. That they would willfully be crude in front of others without regard to their feelings is a strike against them. But even on a more basic level, it makes me question their intelligence and knowledge. When I hear a co-worker using the F word literally almost every other word in a sentence, I have to think, “Do you not know any other words with which to express yourself? Is your vocabulary truly that limited?” If you don’t speak any better than that in public, then I must assume that you can’t. Dressing up in business attire won’t disguise what comes out of your mouth.
Some would say (even yell) ‘Freedom of Speech’! Yes, you have the right to say what you want as I am doing here, but the sign of a mature individual is one who can control their behavior, including speech. They can determine that a professional workplace or a public place with strangers is not the place for such language that others might find offensive. If they and all their friends want to hold inane, uneducated conversations like that in private then more power to them. But a mature person would not think it appropriate to inflict that on anyone and everyone around them without regard for the other person. To do so is offensive and disrespectful.
Don’t we have enough disrespect and offensiveness in the world already without that? Perhaps now is the time to sweeten our language and thus hope to sweeten our world a little. And, as a saying goes, ‘Blessed are those who choose their words wisely, for tomorrow they may have to eat them.’
In a radical departure from accepted standards, I am seriously considering keeping gloves in my car’s glove box.
My apologies if civilization as we know it comes to an end.
In other news, the last of the daffodils have passed into the great hereafter. Hmmm…methinks another trip to Trader Joe’s might be in order. They were glorious while they lasted.
A couple of years ago, a friend and I were talking and we both agreed that we would like to do more to make the world better, but we had limited time and money available to feel like we could have much of an impact. As I pointed out to her, though, even if I can’t save the world and everyone in it from bad things, I can do SOMETHING. Maybe all I can manage today is to hold the door open for someone who has their arms full, or offer to carry one of their bags to their car/apartment for them. Yes, those are small things and the world doesn’t know that I did them, but that one person does. Maybe others even witnessed it. What if that person then made a greater effort to do something similar for someone else? What if the witness made a greater effort to do something similar for someone else? And what if every time something good was done, someone saw it and tried to emulate that behavior? I might think holding open a door for someone was a tiny thing, but for all I know it could have broad repercussions.
If you have time and/or money to give to worthy causes to help others, wonderful. If you have money but no time, so be it. Start with where you are and what you can do. If your situation changes (more time/money or less time/money), then adjust accordingly, but always try to move forward. There’s a lot of ugliness and suffering all around us. If we pull our eyes away from our cell phones, we’ll see ways to help.
I once sat in a large waiting room and saw a woman approaching the non-automatic door using a walker. That entire waiting room did nothing. I was seated on the far side of the room and walked across the room to hold the door for her. Mind you, these were not sick and infirm people (at least not all of them). Many, like me, were simply there waiting for someone who was having physical therapy. But they did nothing. I hope they felt ashamed of themselves after seeing me do that. Yes, the friend I was there with had health issues that made me more aware of such things, but it was obvious that this woman was alone and going to have to wrestle a walker through a door trying to close on her. I shouldn’t have been the only one to offer assistance to her.
Let’s not make excuses for doing nothing. Let’s find ways to do something. Anything.
My grandfather was a prolific journal writer. Sometimes it was little more than trivial observations about his day, but other times he went into more depth talking about something. Of greatest interest to me at the moment are all the tidbits of family history he recorded. Some of it predates my existence, but much of it covers the time of my growing up, going to school and finally leaving home to pursue my own way in the world. While not focused on me specifically, what he recorded were events I often was involved in or at least knew about. At the time, I had no particular interest in them – kids usually aren’t terribly interested in the doings of their parents, aunts and uncles. But now, they provide a vivid reminder of a significant portion of my life. Sometimes I learn things I didn’t know (things you don’t tell the children) and sometimes I find out more about something I knew about but maybe didn’t fully understand.
Why is this important? Well, in my teen years I developed a slight interest in family history/genealogy. I gathered some little information, and I even sat down with my grandfather a time or two to ask questions and find out more. The thing is, I felt no urgency in the matter. High school students usually have other things of more pressing interest where they choose to focus their attention, and so did I. So the notes I scribbled down, without writing up completely while the information was fresh in my mind, did not always make sense years later when I looked at them again. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be perfectly obvious how “Aunt Sue” fit into the family tree, until I couldn’t place her. My grandfather could have readily told me, and answered a myriad of other questions that later surfaced – if I had thought to ask. It never occurred to him to give a lengthy explanation when I did not ask questions. For all he knew, I already had enough information not to need to know more. And then he was gone. Because people die. Many years later, my mother was also gone. And there are so many unanswered questions that remain behind.
When we are young, life will go on forever. While we know that it won’t, of course, the end is nowhere in our sight, so we happily live each day as it comes and expect no great negative changes to our world. But if we think about it, we know that isn’t likely. Death, accident, disease – all these and more can suddenly disrupt our existence and send our world careening off on a course we never imagined or expected. “People die when they get old”, except that isn’t always true. We don’t like to think of car accidents or terrorist attacks on public places, but they happen. And when they do, sometimes lives are ended much sooner than anyone would expect.
With that in mind, I encourage you to evaluate what is important to you. And then, don’t postpone doing/saying those things that matter most. Is it more important that you rewatch past episodes of Game of Thrones or spend time with your mother? Have you been meaning to tell your father/brother/sister/grandparents/spouse/significant other/friend how much they mean to you, but just haven’t taken the time to do it? Are there questions you want answers to, that someone could readily provide the answer, but you haven’t gotten around to asking? Would you love to travel and see more of the world, but don’t make time right now – putting it off until retirement?
Don’t postpone the most important things in your life. Game of Thrones will probably be available on Netflix or other such services for a very long time, but grandma may not last out the year 2017. Pinning things on Pinterest can happen most any time, but that exhibit on Egyptian artifacts that you want to see may be gone in six months and you’ll miss the chance. And by the time you reach retirement, finances and infirmity may greatly limit your ability to travel. Yes, time and money may restrict the things you can do in the here and now, but don’t let them slide, figuring you’ll get around to them eventually. Eventually may never come.
Consider your time and how you want to spend it.