MANDELA, GANDHI, AND KING

In honor or Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, 2017, I am posting this excerpt from Resetting Respect. Respect was a key factor in all their lives.

 

 Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and first black president of South Africa.

The other evening I watched Invictus, Clint Eastwood’s 2009 movie in which Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, who was elected to that position in 1994. Previously Mandela had spent 27 years as a political prisoner for opposing South Africa’s white minority government and it’s policy of apartheid.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and was very impressed by Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela. I was struck by the self-respect that Freeman’s Mandela exuded, a self-respect that allowed him to interact comfortably with blacks and whites alike, a self-respect that allowed him to be a comfortable man among the people as well as a strong authority figure. I wondered if this was Freeman’s idea of Mandela, or whether the real Mandela conveyed that same self-respect and comfort with himself. So I Googled and YouTubed “Mandela,” and sure enough. The video clips of him over the years showed a man comfortable with himself and with others, a man with considerable self-respect and pride as well as respect for all those around him.

As I was reading about Nelson Mandela, the names Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., came up repeatedly. I searched for film clips of Gandhi and King, and they, too, each exhibited a similar presence, a similar sense of self-respect.

As I browsed from site to site, I was struck by several similarities in the lives of these great men. All three were key leaders of civil rights movements in their respective countries. All three were advocates of nonviolent civil disobedience as the best way for their people to obtain civil rights and freedom. All three were nominated for or awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And all three are among the most respected and revered leaders of the 20th Century.

I was curious about how these three men came to be the men they were, with their similar beliefs and strengths and self-respect, and whether there were similarities in their early lives that had influenced who they became. I spent some more time researching Gandhi, Mandela, and King, Jr., and found a pattern that ran among the early lives of all three. They were born into middle-class families that emphasized religion and morality. They were raised with a sense of self-worth and pride. As young men they all experienced affronts to their dignity. And then, throughout their lives, they worked tirelessly for and won respect and civil rights for their people.  

There were many takeaways for me from my brief immersion in and study of these three impressive lives. Respect begets respect. A healthy self-respect leads to valuing and hence respect for others. An early environment of respect, self-worth, and morality can lead to a lifelong attitude and style. A respectful approach to people and problems can change the world!

SHE RESPECTED THE BOY AND PROBABLY CHANGED HIS LIFE

 

What Are You Doing With Your Life?
When a teenager tries to break into her home, Joey Garcia asks him an unexpected question.

By Joey Garcia

I was at my laptop working on a poem when I realized that late afternoon had darkened into evening. I should probably close the windows in the front of the house, I thought.

The early evening light was dim but when I walked into the kitchen, I could clearly see the young man straddling the windowsill, breaking into my home.

He was a teenager, 17 or 18 years old. I felt strangely calm, probably because of my two decades as a high school teacher and life coach for teens. So it didn’t surprise me when a sincere question came into my mind:

“What are you doing with your life?”

He froze. I asked again, louder this time, my hands flapping emphatically: “What are you doing with your life?”

Watching me carefully for a moment, he seemed to ponder the question. Then he began to back out of the window.

I told him I would count to three and yell for help.

The young man ran. With shaky hands, I closed and locked my windows, careful not to touch the one he had entered, or the screen he had removed to break in. Evidence, I thought.

When the police officer arrived, he asked me what happened. When I explained, he asked if I knew the young man. “No” I said. The officer narrowed his eyes. “Then why did you ask, ‘What are you doing with your life?'”

I don’t remember what I told him. But the truth is, I feel responsible for all kids. Every child is my child. I believe that every adult is responsible for guiding teens to maturity. We must all help every teenager we meet to navigate a path into a rewarding life.

Looking back, I think I understand why the young man ran away. To be asked, “What are you doing with your life?” is to be acknowledged as if you matter, are loved and are valued.

In the end, I committed the bolder theft. He tried to break into my house, but I tried to break into his consciousness.

With a Perspective, I’m Joey Garcia.

Joey Garcia is an advice columnist in Sacramento

http://www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201512290643

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year from Resetting Respect, with a suggestion that resetting your respect attitude just might be the perfect New Year’s resolution, as it’s got all other positive resolutions covered!  Resolving to lose weight, or eat more veggies, or walk more miles? That’s self respect.  Resolving to spend more time with your kids, have real conversations with your partner, take your dog on more of those walks?  That’s respect for your family. Resolving to recycle more of your trash, compost your garbage, waste less water?  That’s respect for the environment.

When you decide to reset your respect attitude and acknowledge the value in everyone and everything, you reset the way you live your life.  And that’s to your benefit, the benefit of everyone else, and the benefit of this world we all share.

Why not give it a try?  It really will lower your stress level and just might save the world!

POPE FRANCIS OFFERS RESPECT AND CHALLENGE

pope-francis-john-boehner-sad-face-lg

In his address to the Congress of the United States on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis expressed great respect for the American people in the way he discussed what he values about us.  That was especially clear as he described how Abraham Lincoln fought for liberty, Martin Luther King, Jr., struggled for equal rights for all, Dorothy Day worked for social justice for everyone, and Thomas Merton promoted discussion and peace between peoples and religions.  But then, as Pope Francis elaborated on the efforts and ideas of those four representative Americans, he challenged the Congress, and he challenged each and every American, to live up to those role models, to apply what we can learn from their examples to the many crises facing our world today:  poverty and income inequality; immigration; heightened racial and religious tensions;  global warming. He acknowledged our value, and then challenged us to live up to that inherent value, to the beliefs that we hold.  And he told us he was confident we could do it.  Then, from the porch of the United States Capitol, he asked for the prayers and well-wishes of the thousands before him, an acknowledgment of the value of each person in the throng. What a wonderful and, I hope and suspect, effective example of respect Pope Francis has given us.

THE ATTRIBUTE FROM WHICH ALL OTHERS FLOW

 Although respect is both a verb and a noun, I like to think of it as something I need to do.  And, as I believe that respect is acknowledging a person or thing’s value and accepting responsibility for helping maintain that value, then all the other attributes on the list below will result from or be a part of the respect that is given.  Think about it.  Manners like “please” and “thank you,” or holding the door for another, are small behaviors that promote civil behavior and make recipients feel valued.  All those common-sense wisdoms we’ve learned, like “a penny saved is a penny earned” and  “waste not, want not,” ultimately have to do with taking care of the value of a person or an item.  “Haste makes waste” acknowledges the need for patience.  And I fervently believe that love frequently follows respect, especially when a person is hard to love. When I discover what a person is good at, what they know that is useful or interesting, the good that they do that I never would have guessed, and then I invest in helping them maintain that value, love for that person almost always follows, often much to my surprise.

WRESTLING WITH RESPECT, HUMOR, AND FREE SPEECH

I haven’t posted recently because, ever since the carnage at Charlie Hebdo, I’ve been wrestling with how respect, humor, and free speech can all coexist.

As I think I’ve made pretty clear in my book and on this website, I sincerely believe in according respect to all people and all things because of their inherent value.

I also believe in the value of humor, its healing capacity, its ability to speak truth to power, the way it can ease tension and bring people together.

And I believe in free speech and the right, even the necessity, of individuals and the press to report the truth and express their opinions.

Where I’m having the problem is that so much humor is disrespectful — the blond jokes; the “roasts;” the self-deprecating, “I’m so fat…,” jokes; the bomb in Mohammad’s turban cartoons.  So does that mean that humor that is disrespectful is wrong?  Or does it question the validity of the idea that all people and things deserve respect?  Or is the disrespectful humor aimed at actions that do not deserve respect while the perpetrators maintain their value?  Does it mean we need to self-censor?  Does it mean there needs to be some kind of public censorship of humor?

I don’t know.  As I said, I’m wrestling with it all.  But I’d love to learn your thoughts on the matter to help me think about the issues.  I welcome your ideas here!