Thursday, October 22, 2009

Respect (The "R" in TIRE)





After excersing on Monday, I went into a locker room filled with Army personnel, soldiers, all in camouflage. They were talking and joking and lamenting their upcoming day filled with full packs and long marches and weapons inspections. Then I noticed I had grabbed one of my daughters Barbie towels.

I have tremendous respect for anyone in the military, all who wear the uniform. My dad was a lifer in the Air Force, a First Sergeant for 17 years, all over three continents. I have been trained to respect the uniform and the flag sewn on the shoulder. The person wearing the uniform is a different story. I've met many who disgraced the uniform, having committed crimes, disrespected locals and their customs and the society where they were stationed, not representing positively the people for whom they worked. I didn't know any of these guys so my immediate response was respect.

I wanted them to respect me, too. So I hid, as best I could, the obvious image emblazoned on the towel I was using. No sense inviting ridicule.

Respect does not come in many forms. Only one, actually. It looks at a person and honors their value just because they are a person. But there are two sides to the coin. When two meet the respect of each to the other is immediately obvious. In a group, one can change the dynamic of the whole just by being there.

How we treat others is not dependent upon how they treat us. You do not control me. When you try it's called manipulation, which is an extreme piece of evidence showing disrespect. If I allow you to manipulate me it shows I have no respect for myself. Conversely, if I treat you with respect, regardless of how you treat me, then I recognize the value of both you and me. Respect, or its lack, is more evidence of a personal worldview based on a thoughtful, or thoughtless, moral code.

But respect does not stop at the person. Respect for the person extends to their work, their possessions, their accomplishments. As a Librarian, someone who works with the public in a large public library, I encounter daily the full range of people, from those who treat all with respect to those who treat none, including themselves, with respect. The evidence of their respectful attitudes comes through not only in how they treat people, but their surroundings and the holdings of the library.

Just because a person has value and deserves respect does not mean their actions and attitudes should be ignored or explained away. Those who devalue others, and the work, property and accomplishments of others, need respectful confrontation and specific boundaries. You cannot teach someone how to respect others if they are unwilling to learn, or change their worldview, or have been taught they have no value. It's a shame we have to post "rules of conduct" because of the many people who have not been trained to value themselves, or others, or property which they do not own.

In the end, it is still my own actions and attitudes for which I am responsible.

Gerald F. Ward

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