Character · Coaching and Managing · Ethics · family · Gratitude · history · Inspiration · Leadership · legacy · Living

Giving Respect

I grew up in Delray Beach, Florida, which has a healthy retirement community.  Riding the car with my mom and dad, it was a running prediction that a car approaching in at the intersection may or may not stop or simply proceed into the traffic.  The approaching car would more often than not, pull out fast and furious, but never accelerate past 30 to 35 MPH.  The ongoing joke was that it was a 50/50 chance they would continue to pull out and drive very slowly once on the main road.

Kings Point is a local retirement community just down the street from where we lived.  Some local vendors sold “Pray for me, I drive by Kings Point” bumper sticker.  Maybe not fully offensive, but they weren’t very respectful either.  The driving experience from the drivers in this particular area was a common theme in many of our conversations.   

Driving quirks aside, these elderly drivers deserved more respect that we gave.  I love to read, and read a quick profile in a military history magazine about Jeannette Guyot.  She passed away at the age of 97 back in 2016.  Born in 1919 in Chalon-sur-Saone, France, she distinguished herself in World War II in her actions in support of the French Resistance after Germany invaded.  After her parents were captured (her father executed, her mom surviving the war in a concentration camp), she became more active in the resistance.

Even after capture and interrogation by the Gestapo, she continued to work.  After her short imprisonment, she went to London for more training before airdropping back into France, 1944.  She survived the war, and was a chevalier of the Legion d’honneur, and a receipient of Criox de guerre.  She was one of only two women to earn the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism.”

When she passed away in 2016, few neighbors knew of her acts of heroism.  To many, she was perhaps just an old woman who experienced the war in some capacity.  Sometimes when driving around town or in a store somewhere, sometimes I may get stuck behind someone driving very slowly, or as I walk around, I may feel annoyed at having to suddenly slow down or veer in a different direction to move past.  How many of us tap our feet impatiently as someone holds up the register writing a check or digging around for exact change. 

I try to catch myself, and am much better now than when I was younger.  I have no idea the road this individual traveled in their life.  I use an example of someone older in my driving in Florida example, but it really can be anyone.  We just never know who they are, and what they’ve done and endured.  We just need to always be respectful.  The target of our annoyance could be someone who acted with acts of heroism and sacrifice that most of us will never know. 

Always default to giving respect to everyone.  Perhaps if we all give respect freely, things can be much better.  We engage in too much name calling or labeling, when we should be looking at the positives and being more respectful.  I’m not perfect, and catch myself getting annoyed, but then realize this could be someone who has more than earned my respect.  They may have done things I never could imagine, or have sacrificed more than I would be able to endure.  I should not require proof to give respect freely.

There are those out there like Jeannette Guyot, who live a quiet life, never really calling attention to their experience, abilities, or awards.  I used my own failings about some of my experiences, but there are so many aspects of this.  The point is to give respect before requiring proof of worthiness.  Sometimes the individual may not be worthy of our respect, but we should not pass judgment.  Give it freely and often.  It costs nothing and is very easy to do.  Best of all, it fosters a more positive and healthy environment for all. 

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