Respect, Yo!

Normally, I don't cross-post my social media (reminds me a bit about Dr. Egon Spengler warning, "Don't cross the streams!") but my recent post to my Facebook page got me thinking... it read:

Wearing my old Harvard sweatshirt, an old lady stopped me in the grocery store aisle and asked if I went there. I said yes, I went there for grad school, not undergrad. She said it was probably because I fit some ethnicity they were looking for. I froze. Politeness forbade me from screaming, "NO, IT'S BECAUSE I WORKED HARD, VOLUNTEERED IN MY FIELD AND PAID FOR IT ALL MYSELF! I *EARNED* IT!!!"

I was thankful for the outpouring of support of people just assuring me that human beings can be nice and while this hadn't been said hatefully, it was said out of ignorance or--at best--insensitivity. I was surprised how the feeling stayed with me, even as I checked out of the grocery store and drove home, lingering in the car, in the kitchen, and finally at the keyboard so I could put it aside and get to writing. But I didn't. It kept sticking in my mind, like molasses or a strong, stubborn smell, affecting everything I touched, infusing my brain.

It was yucky.

And yet, one of the things that sprang to mind wasn't the fact that I look "ethnic" enough to be used to slurs or that I am "white" enough not to recognize my privilege and know that I don't have this shoved down my throat every day as a matter of course, but the fact that we live in a world that has these reactions--and these reactions to these reactions--(check out the FB thread to see what I mean.) but that, in karate, we teach Respect, Self-Discipline and Self-Control.

Yes, I had the self-control not to lose my cool in the moment, but the real value that stood out to me was "respect." I was taught to respect my elders, which is part of the reason I didn't let loose. However, perhaps in my listening there should have been "respect those who deserve respect," and not default to age. (I'm not sure. Hmm.) But what I *do* know is that when my husband and I opened our dojo, we tweaked the standard Golden Rule of "treat people the way you want to be treated" to "treat people the way they want to be treated." This is a slightly subtle, but important difference. Just because you don't mind someone calling you names or swearing in front of your kids, giving you flowers instead of chocolate on your birthday or sending you an e-invite instead of posting a card in the mail doesn't necessarily mean that other people may not be sensitive to swearing or prefer chocolates on their birthdays or feel strongly about the etiquette of a proper envelope with a stamp. And this doesn't make you right or them wrong or vice versa, but it does lead to sayings like, "It's the thought that counts." Paying attention to the tiny things that can mean a little or a lot to someone else by being aware--or outright asking, which can be pretty brave--is a good way to be respectful and not simply see the world as a reflection of yourself, your own wants and needs, a mirror-turned-inwards; because everyone is different and those differences should be respected. And when someone treats you the way you want to be treated, you get a glimpse of how much someone else cares and feel--even just for a moment--how special you really are.

Go out. Be kind. Pay attention. Smile!

And, no, I didn't do this:


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