Friday, May 06, 2016

A Touch of Gentility

Side Note: I don't shop at Target. That has nothing to do with their bathroom policy - I don't like their selection and I don't like their prices. I've felt that way for years. To find out how I feel about bathrooms, keep reading.

I look back and remember going to my grandma's house as a child. She'd be in the kitchen baking up something in the oven, my grandpa would be reading the newspaper in his living room chair, and the grandchildren would run in and out, taking cookies from the jar on the counter that was always full. What precious memories those are to me years after my grandparents passed.

They were raised in a time when you'd say "sir" or "ma'am" simply as a matter of course, when you'd stop and help someone whose car had broken down along the side of the road, and when you'd give someone the benefit of a doubt and trust their good intentions until you found out they weren't who they said they were - and you knew that for a fact.

Today, all I have to do is look at social media to start longing for those days to return.

It seems there are many who are eager to take offense first and ask questions later ... if ever. Opinions are shouted and screamed, accompanied by name calling and personal attacks. In my grandfather's time, two fellows might disagree on who to vote for, but it would rarely disintegrate into profanity and attacks on someone's moral character.

It seems there are many who distrust others' intentions and believe that they're rarin' for a fight or trying to be hurtful rather than taking a moment to listen to what is really being said.

It seems there are many who are careful to be politically correct, but who have forgotten something even more basic - kindness. Simple kindness, which is more inclusive and more powerful than any mandated way of speaking.

It's true that technology has brought us a long way since my grandparents' time. We've made tremendous advances in science and medicine and transportation. But I fear that many have slid backwards in terms of respect. If you and I disagree, we can do so without coming to verbal blows about it - and yet, there are those who spend their time looking for the next fight, the next battle.

I have a challenge for all of us, and that's to take a step back and understand that the beliefs we hold dear may not be dear to others - and that's okay. We are each given the choice as to how to think and feel, and taking away their ability to choose their beliefs would also take away our ability to choose our beliefs. On both sides of every issue, we should state our position, and we should allow others to state theirs without the whole thing being reduced to mud slinging. Sadly, those who do this most will never see this post.

And as far as bathrooms go, what if we were to take this furor and this angst we feel on both sides of the issue and concentrate instead on lobbying for a third bathroom? It needn't be as large as the others because statistically speaking, there probably wouldn't be a line of people waiting for it, but it would be a compassionate way to address the issue for everyone, including those who are transgender ... I can't imagine that public restrooms have ever been comfortable for them, and I don't see the opening up of just two bathrooms as being the right solution for them either. At whatever stage of their transformation, they might enjoy a little more privacy and respect.

It's my hope that we can see each other as human beings all sharing space on this planet and not leap into attack mode whenever something is presented that opposes our world view. I'd like to see conversations, not battles. I'd like us to stop using social media to say things we'd never say to someone's face ... and to stop letting social media callus us to the point where we would start saying those things to people's faces. We are all, at heart, good people just navigating our way though life the best we can. Let's wave at each other as we go by instead of sticking out our tongues. 

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