In my mind, simple though it may be, I have a theory. My theory is that all the woes our society suffers all boil down to a lack of respect. Respect for one another, for other’s property, for their earned positions in life — basically a lack of respect for oneself. If you don’t respect others, how can you respect yourself?
I have had the opportunity to discuss this theory of mine with others much more learned than myself. My good friend, Dr. Robin Reed-Spaulding, a very pretty and very knowledgeable doctor of psychology from Sewanee, and I sat over lunch and a cup of Rembrandt’s very best Hazelnut cream coffee once upon a time and I broached my idea to her.
After a moment or so of thoughtful introspection, she allowed as this could very well be true. Instead of making love the missing component, she asserted, one could substitute respect, thinking that without respect how does one love?
And, isn’t it love that makes the world go round? So, I broadened my theory to make the assumption that respect is what makes love go round. Being somewhat newly engaged myself, I knew that my love for my fiancée was grounded in, among other things, a healthy dose of respect.
Working on this hypothesis, I began to ask myself just when did respect leave our homes and schools. Was it while I was overseas serving in the Air Force? Wherever I went, all the officers and airmen alike seemed to understand respect. Was it when prayer was so unceremoniously dumped from our schools? Was it when saying the pledge to our nation's flag became an option rather than the norm?
Has respect disappeared from our homes? Because, like it or not, that’s where it is supposed to start. Is it because we have babies having babies? Have these young people lost hope and with it their self-respect?
Without self-respect, how does one respect all those things mentioned before? How do we help those young people of today gain back that self-respect? How does that homeless man or woman begin to respect themselves as they lie sleeping under that bridge or in that cardboard box? While it may begin with “self,” self-respect is a community affair. No, really, it is.
It takes quality leaders like Baylor wrestling coach Jim Morgan, who did more than turn boys into wrestlers; he turned boys into men. It takes juvenile court judges like my friend Suzanne Bailey in Hamilton County. She is a judge who truly cares about the young people who come before her and treats them with respect regardless of their situation.
We need more judges like the late Bob Moon, Don Poole and Gene Lowery, jurists who not only hear the law but also the human cries for help in their courtrooms and allow God to be a presence, as well.
We need men like my now long departed Scoutmaster, N.G. Carter, who with a simple instruction on how to tie a knot could give a kid hope and let them know they were somebody to be respected. In my case, he took a skinny little kid from the East Lake community and a single parent family and turned him into an Eagle Scout and helped develop my skills as a writer and speaker. Together with family support, he taught me what it meant to respect others and more importantly, what it meant to respect myself.
Fathers need to take the reins and teach their sons about how, if you want to be respected, you have to respect others. In Proverbs 22:1 it states, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
In my opinion, that verse is talking about being respected and how it is better to be respected than all the money, drugs, and ill-gotten gain in the world. Check out the movie "Courageous" if you need further enlightenment.
Next to leading a child to salvation, the next most important thing a parent can do is teach their children respect – what it is to be respected and means to respect others.
Mothers and fathers alike need to ensure that their daughters understand that self-respect means respecting their own bodies and that they are under no obligation to share that body to gain a young man’s attention or respect.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If a young man truly respects that young, pretty girlfriend he will understand that those are pleasures to be left for a later date and time and place.
Respect could have such a life-changing affect on the generation of tomorrow. You see, we, as adults, need to respect them, as well. It goes back to that love and respect theory.
Many folks have a list of heroes in their life, people who have helped them or others along life’s way. I’m willing to bet that the common denominator in each person is that they were respected.
In my own life I have many who have helped turn a gangly young kid into someone who respects himself and others. Men like my grandfather Harry Clark, my uncle Bill Montgomery who pulled me through the seventh grade at a very traumatic time in my life, my afore-mentioned Scoutmaster, my step dad Kenneth Sharp, several pastors and youth leaders, and Roy Exum, who hired me as a green kid right out of high school to be a sports writer.
There are women on my list, as well. There were women such as my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Thelma Thomas at East Lake Elementary, as well as Mrs. Joann Shadwick at East Lake Junior High, who both played a major role in my education. Mrs. JoAnn Carter, my American history teacher at Rossville High School, who did me an enormous favor when I probably didn’t deserve it, also sits high on that list.
Lt. Col. Kerry Beaghan was a supervisor during my Air Force career, but she was even more of a friend. And of course, my mom, Bobbie Sharp, has to be at the top of any list.
Check the rear view mirror of your own life and I’m sure there are people there who affected you, just as the ones I’ve mentioned from my own life. For their sake and the sake of the generation following you and me, don’t you think we should be helping these youngsters learn to respect themselves and others?
What would that do to help stop babies having babies or how might it lower the crime rate? How much love and good will could that generate? I honestly believe that if a young people respects themselves they won’t need a gang to validate their life for them.
Let’s make 2012 the year of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Sing it with me.
Dennis Norwood is a reporter for the Catoosa County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.