I just finished reading the new book by Whoopi Goldberg, “Is It Just Me, Or is It Nuts Out There?” To be honest, I don’t normally pick books to read based on someone else’s commentary on life. But I like Whoopi Goldberg’s way of expressing her honesty even if I don’t always agree with what she says or writes. In her new book, she writes about the lack of respect many people have nowadays, greed, honesty and road rage, among other things. She clearly wrote about her pet peeves, how things used to be, compared to how they are now, and how she believes we can change how we act and react. This is not a review of Ms. Goldberg’s book. However, it did start me thinking about life as we know it today.
While I was growing up, my parents were fairly strict disciplinarians. They taught my siblings and me many reasonable rules to obey, such as respecting our elders. We all showed respect to each other and those outside our family. Certainly none of us talked back to our parents, grandparents, teachers or any other adult. Today, no matter where you go – the mall, a store, restaurant, theater – wherever – you will hear at least one child talking back to his or her parent. Many times, these children are not rebellious teens talking back. You could almost expect that type of behavior from a teenager. Quite often, these are children under ten years of age. The way they speak to their parents, especially in front of complete strangers, makes me cringe. We cannot blame teachers for this total lack of respect. Parents should teach manners to a child well before he or she is even close to entering the school system.
I clearly remember them scolding me if I interrupted a conversation, even after I was taught not to interrupt. They may have scolded me several times before it sank in, but it stuck. I raised my children in the same manner, telling them not to interrupt anyone’s conversation unless it was urgent that they do so. While I was raising my children, I came across other parents who seemed to think that what their children had to say was so important they allowed their children to interrupt conversations continually. It continues to this day even with my own grandchildren. Parents fail to realize that by allowing children to interrupt sends the message that other people do not deserve respect because what they have to say is not as important as what the child has to say.
My parents grew up during the Depression and it left an indelible impact on how they viewed life and material possessions. Like many people who survived that period of time, they worked hard to provide a good life for our family. We had a nice home that was comfortably furnished. We had decent clothing and toys, and the refrigerator was always well stocked. They bought nice things but never overspent. My folks taught us to be practical and to appreciate the things we did have. We learned that if we broke a toy or lost a treasured item through our own neglect, we did not get a replacement. That taught us to take care of our possessions. They also taught us to be thankful for food put on the table, even leftovers. I have seen parents today not only replace broken toys or lost treasures, but even buy a more expensive one to make their little ones happy, only to have the new one broken or lost. As for dinners, I have seen parents make separate entrees for dinner because Susie does not like this or Johnny does not eat that. Forget about leftovers – these same parents will throw food away instead of saving it for leftovers the next day because “they don’t like leftovers”.
The lack of respect and appreciation has been a sore spot for me for a long time. Earlier this year, I told my older grandchildren aged six years to thirteen about the “random act of kindness” campaign of years ago. I hoped they would try to do a random act of kindness for a friend, relative or stranger. Five of them did perform a random act of kindness – at separate times – just once so far. I think they have already forgotten about it. With the popularity of some reality shows that promote disrespect and name-calling, movies like “Mean Girls”, and the increased mudslinging of most of our politicians, I fear the days of common courtesy and civility are on the decline.