Tuesday, June 18, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find Out What It Means To ME!

          Respect does not come with age, knowledge, or plain demeanor. I believe that respect is earned. The old saying, “Respect your elders,” implies that just because someone is older than you and has walked this earth longer than you, they somehow deserve your respect. I find this to be very empty and unsubstantial. Respect is huge and grand in my vocabulary. There are a few different realms of respect and people associate different meanings and reasons for “Respect.” With all that being said, coincidentally, my elders are people I do admire and respect greatly. Grandmother Beatrice, Grandmother Marie, Grandfather Stephens, Grandmother Jeanette, and Grandfather John are who I consider my elders. These amazing people saw this country when it was a simplistic menagerie of hard work and apple pie. These souls have endured war, poverty, progress and great change in the landscape of the US of A. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to see the world as it is now – so vastly different from their beginnings. Nostalgic buildings - gone, stores they frequented - out of business, and communication reduced to text messages or emails. They’ve had to adapt to a much faster paced world. I have high esteem for the beginners of what we now call our family. They planted the seeds of our heritage and from it our parents sprouted and then we soon followed from their blooms. The generation of tradition and sacrifice instilled ethics and morals in their children and those teachings were then handed down the ladder to us.  Respect my elders – well, I certainly do. Not because I HAVE TO, but because they’ve earned my respect with their open hearts and kind ways. Their stories and the time they lend telling them to the younger generation is priceless and I feel honored every time they let me into their history.  Same goes for my parents – all 3 of them – I respect and have such admiration for their histories and how far they’ve come. I’m a lucky girl to have such amazing people that I can look up to.
Now there have been times when I’ve been told I DON’T respect my elders. It really irks me (to be perfectly honest) because I show and give kindness and love to everyone until they give me a reason not to. Quite frankly, those who say this about me are the same ones who have tried my trust, lied to me, and broken my spirit a few too many times. They have shown me or the people around me no respect and therefore they get what they’ve given. So this begs the question, should you respect someone just because they are related to you, older than you or in a position that ranks above you?
I do believe you can be civil with someone whom you don’t necessarily respect. I think in life you have to be able to be truthful to your core, but also cordial with those around you who may not line up with your morals or integrity. Life is going to toss many different people your way and I don’t believe we’re all meant to get along. It’s all about finding the people who support you, keep you grounded and shower the world with positivity. Surrounding yourself with that type of energy as much as possible is obviously great for your soul, but when you go out into the world those people aren’t always available in every setting. It’s hard to navigate sometimes – especially where family is concerned. If you really can’t get on board with someone and you’ve tried and tried to be civil and make everything all roses and sunshine, but they just constantly go against the grain of civility – sometimes you just have to give up.
Of course I feel respect is earned – no matter who you are, how old you are, what position you hold, etc.  There are just times I catch myself doubting that way of thinking because someone questions why I’m not close to an “Elder.” Life is why and actions have shown me who they are. Untruths, stories, broken plans, selfish ways, and negative comments said about me or my most cherished people of my life has chipped away at the respect instilled when I was young. I believe that you are born into a family and there’s a clean slate for every family member, friend, acquaintance that surround you. As you grow and form yourself, you see each person’s character and attributes more and more clearly. You become a person with morals, ethics, boundaries and opinions and those around you start to fit into those ideals or they do not. Mostly what makes it hard to respect someone is the way they treat others. When disrespect is part of their equation, it is very hard to extend respect or civility. With family, you do your best to hang on despite your differences, but sometimes it’s more detrimental to your soul to hang on than to let them go.
Life is a patchwork of experiences and some patches give you color and warmth that keep you safe and happy.  Some patches come undone or ware out till there’s a hole there just bringing in a cold draft. All these pieces matter and all these pieces can be mended if both people want to put in the time stitching. One sided responsibility garners no respect. Every relationship starts with 2 people and the only reason it ends up with 1 person aching for re-connection is because of stubbornness and pride. Those two characteristics make it very hard for respect to re-bloom.
There’s another facet to respect which has to do with lifestyle choices. We all have been formed by our upbringing, our influences and what path we choose to walk. We are all valid, we are all right. Besides the obvious sins – lying, stealing, harming others, etc. – the choices we make in life are right for us. We may look back on a choice later and wish we’d done it differently, but still – it was our choice. When we try and change people to think exactly like us we are not giving them respect either. We are wanting them to conform to our strict sense of what is right. Though, that attitude negates the exact beauty of our differences. We are all put here for a reason – I think of it as a rainbow – each of us are responsible for a strip of color that in turn creates a beautiful sight. If each strip looked to the color next to it and wished it were the same hue as itself, eventually you’d look to the sky on a rainy day and see one big strip of brown. All the colors would be running together and ruining the very essence of what makes a rainbow so beautiful. The different colors! A teacher I had, Mrs. Marciniak, once told a boy in class who was constantly tattling on everyone, “All you need to do is worry about yourself. Be the example.” At the time I didn’t think it was the right thing to say, but I get it now. What she meant was to stop looking for everyone’s shortcomings and focus on doing well yourself and others will follow suit. When you are constantly picking apart why someone is different or telling them that the way they are doing something is wrong - even if the end result is the same – you are disrespecting them.  In life, you only need to focus on the way you do things and what works for you. If someone else goes about life differently whether it be that they like Sushi and you think it’s awful or they use a different detergent than they do to wash clothes – they are not wrong. You can’t tell them NOT to eat sushi or tell them that their detergent is a horrible choice. That is none of your business. The know-it-all personality isn’t always one that is respected or accepted. Claiming to know all the right answers or the right ways to do everything is preposterous. There are hundreds of different ways to live life. If someone wants to get married – great! For that person who doesn’t see marriage as a good fit for them – that’s valid too! Babies are great for some people and some people may never be ready to properly care for another human being – that’s valid. If someone loves someone much older than them or someone of the same sex or someone who doesn’t have a clear career path – that’s all valid. The biggest thing lacking in the world is RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER. We self preserve and instill self respect, but respect for each other isn’t at the forefront of society. It’s all about battling it out in a good debate – let me persuade you to think the way I do, etc. Where have all the open minds gone? Those who can have set standards for their life and yet still be open to other possibilities and respect those who choose differently than them?
I respect my elders, I respect my parents, I respect my brother, I respect my mate, and all because they’ve instilled respect in me. You get what you give and if you take more than you give, someone’s not getting enough. How respectful is that?