Monday, July 23, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What it means to me

Now that the title of this blog has put some good background music in your head, let's talk a little bit (just a little bit, uh, just a little bit) about the lost art of showing respect.

I have one of those jobs where I go to work every day pretty much expecting to be disrespected. I mean, hello, I work with kids. Chances are, at some point throughout the day, they're going to be disrespectful. I accept it, because part of my job is teaching the kids how to be more respectful. I'm not even going to say it's all parents' fault that their kids don't know how to show respect either, because that would be generalizing, and kids learn a lot of it from their peers and society as well. Plus, they're kids. It's what they do. They're stubborn, obstinate, oppositional, and terrific.

What I can't get over sometimes is the parents that show little respect. Seriously. I shouldn't just expect that certain parents won't follow through. They should know better! Every day this summer I have wasted time sitting around in my office, waiting for people to show up for scheduled therapy sessions, twiddling my thumbs and wondering what I could have done differently to get people to come.Blaming myself for not being worthy of their respect. While I was on vacation, apparently one of my clients came in with their parent, not realizing that I wasn't there. The client had only shown up one time previously during the summer, and not for several weeks. Their comment? "She could have called to tell us she was going on vacation!"


Perhaps if they'd come to sessions in the couple of weeks before my vacation, or even done me the courtesy of calling me, I might have thought to call and let them know, as I did with all my regular clients. It seems to be on everyone else's agenda with so many people, not just my clients. We are so ego-centric that we forget that other people are actually people, with their own lives, own thoughts, own agendas.

This has been a pattern throughout history, but it seems like it's gotten worse with technology and the internet. We no longer need to be face to face with someone to spew vitriol in their direction. We don't need to deal with the aftereffects of what we say, because we can simply turn off the computer after completely shattering the self-esteem of someone half a world away. We go through our lives "interacting," with people, but not really as people. We treat others as if they are simply vessels to help us get to the next thing on our agenda. The store clerk who has been having a rough day is moving too slowly for us, and needs to be put in her place. The person driving slowly on the interstate because of car trouble slows us down, earning honking and vulgar gestures. The person honking and waving their middle finger at us on the road because they are terribly unhappy in their own life is the focus of sulfuric thoughts and potentially dangerous impulses.

I am guilty of many of these things, and have lately been making a concerted effort to truly interact with people, and to brighten their day if possible. Can you think of a time when someone took a genuine interest in you? When a complete stranger sincerely wished you a good day? How did you feel? Lighter? More peaceful? I know that's how it affects me.

It is exhausting, sometimes, to be the light instead of spreading darkness. When people who have mistreated me turn it around and try to play the victim, it is difficult for me to hold back from trying to shoot laser beams from my eyes at them. But instead, I must take a deep breath and interact with them with love and respect, even if I don't receive either of those things in return. I know I will make no progress fighting disrespect by giving it back, but there is a chance that if I turn on the charm and sweetness, people will be surprised into returning the gestures, and hopefully with enough practice it will become habit for them as well. Cross your fingers for me, friends, because it's certainly a bumpy ride!

Laugh on.

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