The Power of a Respectful Man!

Monday. The day we all meet with dread, sometimes without reason. We anticipate the unknown week, knowing that a hurried life may happen, crisis could emerge, personalities could flare up, or the week could simply fly by without us noticing.

But, this past Monday was different. I woke up rested, yes I said it, rested. The weekend was relaxing and accomplishing all at the same time. Laundry was caught up, so I could literally wear whatever I wanted. There was nothing pressing in the day.

I rolled out of bed with a smile on my face, threw on one of my favorite sweaters, had enough time to coordinate my jewelry and even pack lunch, and take a breath before work. If I could actually whistle, there probably would have been a happy tune as I walked to my car.

The morning carried that same peaceful tone, even in the midst of brainstorming and creating.

And then it happened, the inevitable, the reason we’ve been conditioned to hate Mondays. The urgent that creeps up and steals your joy! John came in after his break and said, “does someone drive the little cavalier outside?”

Oh, you mean, the little blue one that just keeps going even though it’s been on its last leg for the past several years. You mean the one you can leave completely unlocked with the keys in it and no one is going to touch. The one with the paint coming off and the one where the driver’s seat becomes a recliner at the most inopportune times.

I prepare myself for the doom and say, “Yeah, that would be me.”

I’m then informed somehow in the course of a few hours my tire has gone completely flat. My thoughts begin to shift into “how am I going to fix this” mode while my emotions slowly start to drift into “woe is me” mode. In an instant both modes were wiped away when he asked for my keys so he could go take a look at it and told me not to worry about it he’d take care of it.

Within a few hours, he had called a friend, took it off, put on my spare, and his friend took the tire for me to see what they could do.

And, within a few hours, I felt…respected…cared for…Cherished. These two men, one I didn’t even know, gave up their schedules and time and went out in the freezing cold to take care of me. They didn’t have to. It wasn’t an obligation, or even an expectation really. It was done out of thoughtfulness, kindness, and respect.

Later the same night, I was reminded of just how powerful a respectful man can be while hearing a story of a 15 year old girl. Her story starts with a man who was “annoying.” I learned quickly that in our world annoying is now interchangeable with aggressive, insulting, even abusive. The actions of young men, or society, or whatever culprit we would like to blame, has now minimized hitting, biting, name-calling, and abuse to a word that is equivalent in my life to someone smacking their food or continually clicking a pen.

The stark reality of the two worlds collided and now I had to take notice.

My reality is one in which my entire life I have been surrounded my men who have loved and respected me. I have men that protect me, teach me, and encourage me. They provide me strength and kindness all at the same time. Sheltered by their safety and protection, I learned to risk, challenge, and live.

But, the opposite is true for so many other girls. They’ve learned to settle for not be scared 50% of the time, or 25%, or 10%. Their norm has become “well at least it’s not as bad as the last one.” They’ve had men inflict them with unnecessary shame and guilt. Safety and protection was replaced with robbery of their innocence, choices, and an understanding of what a healthy man looks like.

Two worlds…

One creating confidence built on respect.

One creating not knowing built on disrespect.

Two worlds completely distinct, yet blending and intersecting so often we don’t notice they coexist.

But once they collide questions have to emerge.

Questions like, what determines if a man becomes a man of respect or disrespect? What determines which ones we allow in our life?

As well as questions like, What if respectful men rise up? Would they believe it? Could they accept it? If healthy, loving men stand up would they feel the same safety and protection I feel when I with my uncles, my teachers, my pastors, my brothers, my friends?

I have to believe the answer is yes.

Culture Shock Experienced at Sam’s Club

In was a Saturday afternoon, much like any other.  After hours of trying to convince myself to brave the frigid cold and get out from under the covers, Sherrita and I began a texting war attempting to motivate one another to do something, anything, after a long work week.  We finally decided sushi was reason enough and agreed to meet.  We each arrived a half an hour late, her do to forgetfulness and having to backtrack and me do to lack of GPS and sense of direction, and laughed as we realized both behaviors should have been predicted.

We both carried in our books, secretly knowing that we had too much catching up to do to actually study and went to what can now be dubbed our booth.  As expected, we talked and talked and talked.  And then, as expected, we both convinced one another to run errands with each other.  My “errand” was looking for shoes, shocking, and hers was going to Sam’s Club on a Saturday afternoon.  That should show our level of friendship!

We pulled up and were met with a full spectrum of cultures.  Everyone had their own methods of parking, pushing their carts, even how to stand in line.  Each person representing a unique culture, yet somehow driven by the culture of American consumerism. 

And, within an instant, I was confronted with my own unintentional stereotypes.

I quickly went to frustration as lines weren’t going the direction I thought they should go, people pushed past me without an “excuse me” or “sorry,”  and there was no systematic way to go up and down the aisles.  Almost as quickly as the frustration came, another realization came as well.  The realization that my frustration came because I wanted everyone to do things my way.  Instead of embracing and cherishing that I was surrounded by people of different socio-economic backgrounds, races, and cultures, all I could focus on was getting what I wanted when I wanted it (guess we could go back to that consumerism I was talking about earlier and add self-centeredness to the mix).  I could have been mesmerized that I heard three different languages in the course of 30 minutes, instead of annoyed that I couldn’t get around their cart. 

Once the realization came, my perspective changed.  I became patient and flexible.  I became friendly and engaging.  And, surprisingly, I received the same. 

I know the story should stop there, but if I didn’t include this last part I would be doing a huge disservice. 

The best part of Sherrita is that she has a big personality.  She funny, loud at times (you know it’s true), confident, and completely in control of herself.  Well…after my little epiphany, we were having a great time.  We were joking off, meeting new people, and enjoying the bargains.  Sherrita was pushing the cart in front of me, when I saw exactly what I needed.  Before I knew it, I exclaimed, “oh, big sexy,”  referring to my favorite hair products.  I grabbed it just as Sherrita turned around.  She looked at me and immediately knew that I was referring to hairspray.  I looked at her and immediately knew that when I said “big sexy” she thought I was talking about her! 

Both of us burst into laughter, while the people from all different cultures joined us!



The Non-Profit Stakeout

Every once in awhile I find myself roped into an awkward moment of not knowing. What I mean is I often find myself in places I don’t know, with people I don’t know, doing things I don’t know how to do. And, before you ask, I’m not talking about a life that could lead to an after school special. I’m talking about the life of a director of a non-profit.

Truth be told, I rarely know what is going on, because life often goes something like this:

Laura F.: What are you doing tonight?
Me: Nothing really.
Laura F.: Do you want to go with me to a party…a presentation…a fundraiser…any other event you can imagine (I now affectionately call this scenario “Adventures with Laura.”)
Me (after contemplating my extensive social life and checking my datebook): Sure.

I then start the ever important dialogue with, “what should I wear.” Her response is usually a shrug of the shoulders because she has already chosen her attire of leggings with knee high boots and a long blouse. If only life were that easy. I then go through my car, because even though I now have a place to call home I still live out of it, picking and choosing the best outfit for an uncertain
destination and group of people.

She always drives because, well I already told you, I live out of my car.

But, the best part of our adventure starts upon arrival. We rarely know exactly where we are going, so we start a guessing game from the beginning. Once we reach what we think is our destination, we begin what I now affectionately call “The Non-Profit Stakeout.” As I go to reach for the door handle, I hear, “wait.” We must first search our perimeter. Not for danger lurking around the corner or to catch someone doing something sneaky. NO! We search our perimeter to determine if we recognize anyone or for any clue that will lead us to what to expect of this little adventure.

We set patiently (I may be a tad bit ansy) watching the first few cars pull up to see if we have the right place and to gage what our audience might be. After much anticipation, she’s scoped it out and ready to go, so in synchronized form we take one more glance in the mirror to adjust make-up, hair, and clothing and begin the journey to the entrance.

We both know we have no idea what is waiting behind that front door and we both know she hasn’t completely filled me in on everything
she might already know in fear that I could possibly say no (hasn’t happened yet, but it could).

These stake-outs have led to speaking with sisters, hanging out at a margarita holiday party, doing community seminars in the middle of nowhere, and, in her case, a old ladies slumber party. We’ve also experienced criticisms, stereotyping, and in one case a gentlemen who liked to get a little too close to my backside.

We walk in completely unaware of what could happen, but with each door we walk through I notice a few things:

1. There are a lot of different types of people that want to be a part of what we are doing.
2. For every inconsiderate action, comment, and attitude we’ve encountered there has always been someone who came to our defense.
3. Although, we often see darkness and depravity, it doesn’t compare to the number of people we encounter who are gracious and compassionate

And, perhaps most importantly, I know that when Laura says, “what are you doing tonight,” it’s going to be an adventure.