“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.”~Dalai Lama.
Things were different when I was growing up. I see how easily I have moved into the ‘older generation’ category, reminiscing about how things used to be. But I remember the first time I wore long pants in the dead of winter in the UK. It was noteworthy enough that Mr. Gooden (an older gentleman) started to call me Mrs. Jones’s little boy. People and children were expected to fit into certain categories; we automatically conformed to society’s rules; stepping outside of those boundaries was frowned upon.
And yet people have been pushing limits and challenging social mores for centuries. I have often thought that I would have hated to have lived in a time when I was expected to dress in those long, crinolined outfits of the middle ages. On a daily basis I choose to wear pants over skirts; jeans over dresses. The biggest joy for me when I started to work as a nurse in the US was knowing that I had the option of wearing pants suits (white; not the multicolored scrubs that are the norm today). Pants are more practical when your job requires a lot of physical activity.
But going back to my childhood; we were expected to be children, not mini-adults. Fashions for kids were not miniature versions of young adult clothing. Thanks to social media and the ever-ready camera, the next generation is growing up too fast; trying on looks and poses more suitable for models. And although they look ‘cute’, there is the fear that they will not get to enjoy the freedom of not caring how you look; not dressing for effect; the freedom to just be a kid. A kid who gets dirty, whose clothes get torn as the adventures of climbing trees take their toll.
We have recently been exposed to the seamier side of life; a world where men (mostly) have abused their positions to take advantage of (mostly) younger women; women who may not know they have the right to refuse, or who may think their job and livelihood will suffer if they complain. It has left us confused, wondering what is normal behavior; how many more shoes are left to drop? Women who bravely enter a career which is dominated by men appear to be particularly vulnerable. They are already challenging stereotypes, perhaps the only way to survive in such a world is to put up and shut up. But what of the men who believe that they have the right to take advantage of the situation?
I remember hearing the word ‘entitlement’ applied to my friend’s (ex) husband. They had gone for counseling and this was the diagnosis. He had a sense of entitlement. It resonated with me, for I could see that there are those who grow up believing that the world owes them something, And when you have that attitude, then everything is there for you to take. But when it comes to the male of the species, how have women and in particular mothers, contributed to this expectation? What role model have we demonstrated? How much have we let our sons get away with?
I have mostly worked in female dominated professions, in nursing and in teaching, so I have never been exposed to men who believe they can use their power or position to exploit a situation. I have, however, experienced many situations where physicians (mostly men) have felt it acceptable to be verbally abusive to nurses (mostly female).
What seems to be missing from all of these examples of abuse of power is a simple sense of respect and appreciation for the personhood of the other, the party on the receiving end. If I don’t view you as a person with free will and the right to self-determination, then I don’t care about your feelings. The #metoo movement empowers a worldwide community of people who can now feel visible, feel able to voice the pain and shame of the mistreatment that they have buried for so long.
We have been provided with the opportunity to reexamine our society and to change the norms once more. As with racism, sexual harassment and worse still exists, and must be acknowledged before a new passage forward can be forged. Unfortunately good behavior often has to be legislated into action in order for people to move forward. I was shocked to learn that the American with Disabilities Act only came into being in 1990, preventing workplace discrimination against those with disabilities.
It seems appropriate this week to try to bring a sense of appreciation for our fellowman/woman into the conversation, to try to reset the dialogue despite the fact that as always, the negative dominates the airwaves. By demonstrating respect for others, by demanding respect for ourselves, we can move forward to a better world for all. But there also have to be practical ways for those who are not able to speak for themselves to be protected.
On a gloomy South Florida, post-Thanksgiving lazy start to my Friday, I give thanks for all of the good people that I know who practice respect and appreciation for their fellowman every day. I give thanks for the freedom to dress in the outfit of my choice, to speak freely of whatever crosses my mind, and to live the life I choose to live. There are many in the world who cannot do any of the above. I also give thanks for family, and for opportunities to laugh, love and eat together.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!