Demand the freedom to live a fulfilling life

I missed posting yesterday, and I could use the excuse that I was merely exercising my freedom not to. But the truth is that teaching school (door decorating contests get pretty intense around here) and being in charge of a church dinner (we made the ham, funeral potatoes–best dish in the world–salads, centerpieces and dessert) packed my day and evening.

Am I forced to live a busy life? Good gravy, no.
I choose it.
I love it.

I love teaching, although the month of December is incredibly distracting to students.
I love serving the tiny branch of my church.
I love choosing my life, doing what I think and believe is the best.

Fight to have the freedom to choose your own life, and the bravery to demand that freedom.

pfreedom to choose

Get the prequel The Walls in the Middle of Idumea here!

We spend so much in anger and it buys us nothing (Plus a HUGE sneak peek to Book 8, “The Last Day”)

They got into a fight in the cafeteria yesterday, the two boys. One was calling another a derogatory name until the victim finally punched the bully in the head during dinner.

“Did you see any problems with them yesterday? You have both of them,” my husband asked me. They are in one of my American Lit summer classes, but my students generally stare blankly at me because even though I speak English slowly and write all the words on the board, they don’t understand enough English and I don’t understand any Chinese. (I’m afraid it’s been a long three weeks for all of us.) There could have been all kinds of conversations and even threats that I missed out.

Today I observed the two boys, now sitting on opposite sides of the room when they used to sit next to each other. Supposedly one is better off than the other, one has a greater social standing than the other . . .

But I can’t tell.

Not by their clothing, not by their gadgets, not by their faces, or hair, or words.

All I see are two teenagers, and I scratch my head as to what caused one of them to have a swollen eye today.

Was it worth it? If I can’t tell any difference between them, should there be anything to fight over? Even if I could see a difference, why should that be a reason to fight?

I remember reading about a conflict in a tiny country I didn’t even know existed, and how many thousands of people over the years had died fighting over a piece of land and a notion of pride.

How tragic, I thought, that people who live and breathe and love and create and bake and laugh have to die because someone thinks something is more important than something else.

In the world-wide scheme of things, their civil war improves nothing. No one else in the world even knows about their battles, and even if they did, their war is meaningless to the rest of us.

How petty and foolish and tragic.

Then again, the majority of our battles are equally as unnecessary and as inconsequential to the world at large. We spend so much angry effort, and it buys us nothing.

It’s taken me decades to realize that I don’t have to fight. If someone insults me, my family, my heritage, my religion, my friends . . . I can walk away. The few times that I did take the bait and battled for hours or even days, I came away with nothing but more fury and frustration, and a lot of wasted time.

Perhaps there’s something enjoyable about fighting that I don’t understand. Some perverse sense of accomplishment or security or self-righteousness in being able to stomp someone into the ground, either physically or online. But what kind of accomplishment is that, to be the best bully?

I had two American students fist-fight last year, but afterward they became great friends, sitting next to each other in class and frequently writing about their “epic battle” in the rain. They both agreed it was dumb (especially since they were suspended), and that they’d never do it again, but in a strange way, it worked: they got out their aggression and an alliance was formed. They bonded by bashing each other. (I think this may only work with males because most females I know will hold a grudge forever.)

So perhaps occasionallyt a fight does work. But if that were the case all the time, our society would be the friendliest ever in history and social media wouldn’t be a war zone.

I’d rather just walk away. I’ve never once regretted leaving a fight, but I always beat myself up for joining in one, which means I suffered twice.

A voice near the front called, “Guide, what if we fight them off? Defend our lands? Why should we just let them take it all?”

Guide Zenos held his breath as many more calls of, “Let us defend ourselves!” rose up in the arena.

Several of his twelve assistants, seated on chairs to the side of the podium, looked around, startled at the sudden aggressiveness of the Salemites.

But Shem wasn’t surprised. He had long suspected this would happen. Salem had never before faced a direct threat, nor did they know how to deal with the idea of someone simply taking something. That never happened in Salem, so the natural impulse was to fight back.

But the Creator expected more from Salem.

Guide Zenos leaned forward and said, loudly, “NO.”

The arena fell into silent befuddlement.

He let his answer settle in before continuing.

“I know your desire is to not allow anyone to take your homes, but this is not the Creator’s will. Nor, you will remember, are these your homes, or your farms, or your livestock. All of it belongs to the Creator, as it always has. It is His will that you voluntarily leave Salem and retreat to safety. We’ve known this would be our fate for the past one hundred-sixty-five years, ever since Guide Pax saw this time coming. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We also know that Guide Gleace saw that no weapons of any kind should be taken—”

He couldn’t complete his sentence for the outcry that arose.

“No weapons?!” was the only phrase he could distinguish before the din grew too loud. Many were demanding to be armed, while many others were just as adamantly reminding them that was against the prophecy.

Another voice near the front shouted, “But what if this isn’t the Last Day? What if it’s just a preliminary attack? What if we have to rebuild once they leave or we destroy them?”

Shem sighed. He’d hesitated making any declaration that the Last Day was near, or ‘around the corner,’ as Mahrree had begged him to know just that morning. He didn’t feel that was his announcement to make.

But as he watched tens of thousands of Salemites, who he’d always known to be a peaceful and obedient people suddenly become agitated and even irate, he knew it was because of the spirit that came before the army of Idumea.

The Refuser’s influence was already there, stirring up those whose faith wasn’t quite as strong.

Shem said a silent prayer, asking if—

The answer came too forcefully to deny, and he had to grip the podium to remain upright. Staring down at his notes, he could no longer find his place because the words he needed to say were repeating in his head and would continue until he spoke them.

He swallowed hard and said, “The Last Day is coming. It will be upon us shortly. Very shortly.”

He didn’t shout or raise his voice. Yet the feeling of his words carried over the entire arena and stopped every tongue. The sudden silence was profound.

Just to be sure they heard him correctly, Guide Zenos said in the same clear voice, “The Last Day is coming. It will be upon us shortly. Very shortly. Defending ourselves is contrary to the Creator’s will. If we follow the admonitions of our past guides, we will be preserved to see the hand of the Creator fight this battle for us.

But,” he continued in a sharper tone, “if we insist on fighting, we will fall before the army. What’s the point of losing your lives trying to keep a house or preserve a farm? The ancient temple site is and will remain a secure site. Should any danger approach it, I have full confidence the Creator will send a way to secure it again. He has promised us, through the words of many guides, that He’ll fight our battle. The Deliverer will come before the Creator’s Destroyer. I think we’ve all heard that before, haven’t we?”

Before him on the benches, thousands of men, women, and children squirmed worriedly, restlessly.

“My dear Salemites, I’ve been in battle. It’s not romantic nor heroic. It’s terrifying. Tragic. Painful. If the Creator says He will do my fighting for me, then I happily accept His offer. Each of you would be wise to do so as well.”

A man rose to his feet. “And what if we don’t? What if we choose to fight instead?”

“Then you fight alone,” Shem warned him. “Now, I’ll do nothing to prevent you. Salem is still a free land. You may choose what you’ll do, but I promise now that those who stay to fight the army will die. You simply cannot win. Idumeans are more powerful and more desperate, and they care nothing for anyone’s lives but their own. The Creator will not help you, because if you choose to fight, you choose against His will and you forfeit His protection.”

There was considerably more squirming in his audience.

“But I also promise,” he changed his tone yet again, “that if you follow the words of the guides, if you go with your families to the ancient site, you will be in the Creator’s care. I’m not advising you to surrender to Lemuel Thorne; I’m advising you to surrender your will to the Creator. Let Him finish this for us.”

He thought it would be enough, that the choice was obvious.

But apparently several hundred Salemites, mostly men, didn’t agree.

To all my high school teachers 30 years ago–I’m so very, very sorry

While I was getting fingerprinted yesterday, I realized I had a lot of apologies to make.

No, I hadn’t committed any crime, except for becoming a substitute teacher for a local high school.

Which means I remembered my high school years and the way I behaved.

No, I wasn’t smoking in the east parking lot, being a vandal, or getting into an other 1980s-teen-movie troubles.

My greatest problem: I was obnoxious, with a capital O-B.

I was sweet and charming (or so I thought) and I would never, EVER shut up.

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Gee, which one might I be?

So to all my high school teachers who I interrupted with some clever quip which derailed their excellent explanations or lectures, I am very, very sorry.

I wasn’t clever–I was annoying.

We all know it, don’t bother trying to save my feelings at this point. I’m a grownup now.

PICT0016

Yeah, that girl–the “charming” one.

I did get to apologize directly to my AP Biology teacher about a year and a half ago. I found him online and thanked Doyle Norton for his wonderful lessons (I still remember the ATP Choo-Choo train). Then I wrote, “I also want to thank you for your incredible patience, especially with students like me who never shut up, trying so hard to be funny when you were trying so hard to teach us about the circulatory system.”

Generously, he responded with, “Oh, I don’t remember you being obnoxious.” I’m sure he didn’t remember me at all out of thousands of students, but I’m sure he remembered the mouthy ones, putting them all in a category which, at the end of the day, made him rub his face in exasperation.

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Dear Doyle Norton even took a busload of his biology students to southern California each Easter. Patience of a saint. Or the madness of a scientist–I’m still not sure which.

I rub MY face in exasperation just remembering what I was like 30 years ago.

So to all my teachers at Viewmont High School–I am so, so sorry. I don’t remember any of you losing patience, becoming angry, or doing anything more than smile with GREAT forbearance at me, and now that I’m your age (and older, I’m sure), I’m even more impressed with the examples you set.

I also need to apologize to my friends, particularly Heather McClure, wherever you are: you not only sat next to me in AP Biology but also AP English, the two classes where my mouth was the mouthiest. I kept up a quiet running dialogue during both classes all year long, and you so very generously, very kindly, would only smile and keep your eyes on our teachers instead of turning around and screeching at me, “SHUT UP ALREADY!”

I would have deserved it if you had.
Did you pass the AP tests?
I’ve worried about that, for 30 years now.
More apologies if you didn’t. It was completely my fault.

I’m remembering all of this as I mentally try to anticipate what substitute teaching will be like, and I’m reminded that we never fully escape our past but usually end up paying for it in some way.

I think I’m about to pay for it this fall, and now I’m praying earnestly for the same great forbearance my teachers showed to me. Because the one thing–the main thing–I remember about my teachers was their enormous kindness.

Even when there were kids mouthier than me (shock!) I remember my teachers’ patience and  . . . I guess it was love. Their concern for us was greater than their need to protect their egos. They put us first instead of themselves or their lessons.

I realize teenagers and times have changed dramatically over the past 30 years, but what hasn’t changed is that children of all ages need to feel loved, need to be treated with kindness, need to have great forbearance shown to them.

I’m praying daily now to develop those essential skills myself, and hope I’ll never have to apologize to my future students for never being kind enough. (But I probably will–I’m sorry. Again. Already.)

    Go bold, Mahrree wrote on the scrap paper late that night.
    She frowned at it.
    It should have been Go boldly, right? She got it wrong all those years ago. But that indicated going somewhere, and what she’d meant was, Be bold.
    But then it would have been, Be bold, or don’t be at all, which was far more fatalistic than she intended.
    She scowled at the paper. Things are so much simpler when one approaches them with the over-confident superiority of a teenage mind.
    Now, as an adult, she finally realized just how simplistic and incorrect her old motto had been.

~Book 1, The Forest at the Edge of the World

They may do that, but we do NOT

It’s getting harder to teach my children civility when they see mature adults deliberately flouting the law.

Like right here:

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We were at the grocery store waiting for my daughter when a seemingly healthy man around 60 and wearing nice vacation clothes pulled his Subaru up to this sign. I watched as he eyed it, pondered it, then shut off his car and got out. Astonished and knowing he saw the sign, I watched as he took a bag of trash to a can at the front of the store. But he wasn’t just tossing garbage; he took a cart then went in. This wasn’t a quick trip; he was shopping.

As I blinked in confusion, I heard, “Why’d he do that?”

Yessirree Bob, you who broke the law: a 13-year-old saw you ignore legal parking spaces ALL AROUND us, and saw you instead choose to do whatever you wanted.

“That’s against the law, isn’t it? Parking where you shouldn’t?”

Think about this: how are kids supposed to become civilized adults respecting the law when they see seemingly-respectable adults deliberately ignore it?

And people wonder how seeds of anarchy are planted, how civilizations crumble. It’s this way, folks. Seriously–THIS WAY. It starts with our youth witnessing selfish arrogance, and their own begins to grow.

Except when kids have moms like me who don’t put up with that behavior.

Fuming quietly, I said, “That IS against the law, and even though he may choose to do that, we do NOT.”

Now I try very hard to always think the best story about people, to assume goodness or innocence when something seemingly bad is happening. So perhaps this man has early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s and the sign confused him (a worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe, because marijuana is legal in this state, he was buzzed (another worrying thought since he’s driving); or maybe he can’t read English and didn’t understand the sign (which is doubtful because he could have seen where the other dozen cars were parked and easily deduced where he should leave his Subaru).

Still, no matter what the reason, what an impressionable youth saw was an adult showing no regard for the law, or anyone else for that matter.

This is a huge problem.

I still believe in respecting the law, in treating others with kindness, and in doing what’s right even if–

No, ESPECIALLY when no one else seems to care.

So to my son I said, “Look how his car is blocking traffic, how he’s created a dangerous situation. People can’t see around him at that intersection. The sign is there to protect everyone, and he’s causing problems by his behavior.”

Don’t misbehave around me, because my duty as a mother demands that I draw attention to the behavior and teach my children what is acceptable and what is NOT.

Disrespect is exploding everywhere. I’ve written before how I’ve told my kids why I’ve “hidden” a number of adults they know on my Facebook feed because they won’t post anything civil. Name-calling, ridicule, snarkiness–none of that is ever acceptable behavior, but now it’s become a pastime.

Two days ago I came across a house listing posted on Facebook by someone with a large following. It wasn’t her house, but because she found its decor gaudy and over-the-top, she went out of her way to hold it up in a public place to mock the owner of the house. She went so far as to insinuate that certain religious groups “helped” the seller create such an “outrageous” house.

More than 80 people joined in the public derision of this innocent home owner’s pride and joy. All she was trying to do was sell her house. She didn’t deserve to be bullied, and that’s what it was: bullying.

Even more disgraceful was that many who commented were those I knew who claimed to be Christians.

It was if they forgot that Christians don’t bully one another. They don’t post snide comments about anyone–public figures, politicians, neighbors, random people they’ve never even met–no one.

And Christians certainly aren’t supposed to deliver hell to someone. My heart ached for this home owner who would undoubtedly discover how she’d become the object of ridicule simply because her decorating tastes were different than others.

This is not how grownups are supposed to behave. We should have outgrown this childishness back in 8th grade. Immaturity, selfishness, and disrespect is what causes civilizations to collapse. These seemingly-little moments of, “The rest of the world can go to hell; I’m going to do and say and write what I want” will be the downfall of us all.

Because the younger generation is watching. My kids, your kids, someone else’s kids are learning from adults, and what they’re learning is, Anything goes.

Why do adults treat others so horribly? The best I can guess is that they are arrogant yet also insecure. They can feel superior only by trying to show others to be inferior. They’re not interested in building up the world, but in tearing it down so they might have a chance to stand on top of the rubble in some position of authority.

But it won’t work. You can never increase your confidence while putting down someone else’s. Just because more people are engaging in selfishness, arrogance, and bullying doesn’t make any of it right; all of that just makes the world nastier.

There are, however, adults who do behave properly, and being a mother demands that I also point out their civility to my children.

For example, a gentleman I know–and he is a true gentleman whom I’ve award the Internet Civility Award to–is plagued almost daily by a childish adult who posts on his Facebook page why this gentleman should no longer be friends with those of a certain religion. And every day this gentleman kindly says, “Thank you for your input, but your statements don’t change my mind.”

Then his attacker–and he does attack–goes off on a furious rant against this kind man, throwing at him all kinds of vitriol as if the gentleman deserves such rancor for his willingness to befriend others from different walks of life.

The gentleman never rises to the fight, but always walks nobly away.

I watch closely other truly mature adults, men and women who encourage, instruct, and gently, kindly admonish others to live a little better, to be a little kinder, to be more Christlike. Their posts are loving, heartfelt, earnest.

And never, ever mean.

They are my heroes, the ones I also point out to my children and say, “They do this, and so should we.”

The Internet Civility Award (TICA): Who will you award it to?

The other day something astonishing happened on my Facebook page.
Friend #1 posted his feelings about government spending, and Friend #2 chimed in with an opposing viewpoint.
Friend #1 presented more evidence.
Friend #2 countered and began to escalate.
This is the astonishing part: Friend #1 explained his beliefs, then APOLOGIZED if he stepped on Friend #2’s toes.
Even weirder, Friend #2 responded by saying no apology was necessary and that SHE was sorry for getting emotional.

AND THAT WAS IT. CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!
They remained friends, and everyone went merrily on.

I, however, messaged both of them and told them I believed they each earned The Internet Civility Award (TICA). Since there wasn’t one yet, I couldn’t give it. But here it is now. (Yes, I just made this up.)

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Copy and paste this on anyone’s social media page to recognize them for kindness and respect.

I’ve written about civility before, but lately I’ve been watching for it, and it’s out there. For example, the LDS Church (Mormons) recently announced plans to build a temple in Pocatello, ID, and a Muslim family who lives there posted publicly on Facebook that they were happy for their LDS friends.

Muslims and Mormons

CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

In looking for examples of civility to share with my children, we recently became addicted to “The Great British Baking Show,” not because we’re any good at baking, but because we love watching the contestants. It’s a competition, with each week a Star Baker identified, and someone sent home.

The amazing thing is watching these contestants HELP each other, GIVE each other advice, and when one of them wins, they CHEER their fellow competitor. And when someone gets sent home, they WEEP genuine tears for their loss.

Image result for the great british baking show hugging  Image result for the great british baking show hugging

CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

I realized the need to point out good behavior to my children during last year’s presidential election. My kids read over my shoulder when I’m on Facebook, looking for movie trailers and videos of screaming goats. My 9-year-old was stunned to see the posts of supposedly “mature” adults she knew, calling candidates names and behaving very uncivilly.

My 4th grader said, “That person’s a GROWN-UP! Why isn’t he acting like one?”

That great question led to a discussion about kindness and respect for all people, if we like them or not. Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone.

She agreed with me that we should unfollow this person, along with a few others, who didn’t demonstrate “grown-up” behavior online.

But I want to reward those who act like mature and civil adults (even if they’re still kids), so I will be awarding TICA  TICA The Internet Civility Awardto those who demonstrate excellent behavior in the face of rudeness, intolerance, and anger, and I’d love for you to join me.

When you see someone approach a conflict with grace and dignity, with kindness and respect, paste this image to them and let the world know that here’s a person who still knows how to behave.

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Maybe if we point out civil behavior more often, more of it might occur.

“That’s the way to respond! With respect like that, you’re already two weeks ahead of everyone else.”

~Book 6, The Flight of the Wounded Falcon, coming May 2017

You don’t have to agree with me for us to be friends

I was 19 and terrified to realize that my supervisor for the summer was an openly gay man. It was the late 1980s, and I was from a sheltered community where “such people” were rare. Realizing that me, Molly Mormon, would have to interact with Flamboyant Paul made me think I’d made a mistake in taking that mall job on the east coast.

My suspicions were confirmed when I met my coworkers who immediately jumped in with predictable knocks on my religion when they heard I was from Utah. The fact that I didn’t join in on their drinking party as we unloaded the new freight didn’t help much. I was an easy target. My work environment was initially very uncomfortable, but since it was for only three months, I decided to grit my teeth and bear it.

I frequently noticed Paul watching me, and only much later did I realize that he must have understood what it felt like to be the object of scorn. One afternoon, when the store was quiet and I was dutifully putting away stock while Paul sat at the register with paperwork, he suddenly blurted, “Dogs!”

I looked up, surprised.

“Do you like dogs?” Paul asked.

Confused by the random question, I said, “I grew up with a small, white mutt named Fluffy.”

“Tell me about it.”

“We had him since I was a toddler. When I moved away to college, he’d grown very old and smelly and was going blind. He wandered off shortly after I left. My mom was devastated and my parents searched everywhere, but no one ever saw him again. As if when I left, he knew he should die.”

When I saw how aghast Paul was, I wondered why I’d chosen to relate such a depressing story.

But then Paul burst out with, “That is the SADDEST dog story I’ve ever heard! But I LOVE IT! I love sad dog stories! Ok, I’ve got one—listen to this!” And he went on to relate an even sadder dog story. I have no idea what it was anymore, but I found myself smiling and sniffling at the same time.

I realized Paul had been looking for something to talk about with the quiet, awkward Mormon girl who worked in his store, and finally we connected on dogs.

He told me all about the Great Dane puppy he and his boyfriend were raising, and we spent the whole afternoon talking dogs.

The next day I hesitantly mentioned, “Right now, I have a fish tank.”

Paul clapped his hands and said, “And WE want to get a fish tank! Tell me all about yours!”

For the rest of the summer we chatted every day, and when I left, I hugged Paul with genuine tears in my eyes while Paul sobbed, because we had become friends.

Paul demonstrated that I can still be friends with someone even if I don’t agree with their beliefs or behavior. Our relationship was based on what we had in common, and after three months, that was quite a lot.

About ten years later I was teaching a college writing class where the main project was a 15-page persuasive research paper. I had a very cocky and confident student who I’ll call Doug. I brought articles to class to analyze different points of view, and Doug made it point to quiz me on what leanings I had toward the issues, then launched in to argue against me. While I found him rather boorish, he certainly did liven up the class.

Soon he was meeting with me after class to dig deeper into a certain issue which I suspected was for his paper. He even took notes about my position. Sure enough, when he turned in the project, the little stinker had taken a position the polar opposite of mine. In fact, he argued against me, point-by-point.

When I handed back the papers a few weeks later, cocky Doug appeared worried, for once. He hastily thumbed to the last page, looked at his grade, and gasped.

His peers, who had been reading through his drafts—and warning him, too, about not directly writing against me—leaned over to see his grade. They, too, gasped, and one of them said, because Doug was speechless, “You gave him a 98%? But he argued against you!” (He had a few grammar issues, after all, to warrant losing a few points.)

“I know,” I said, “and marvelously, too. He almost persuaded me to his line of thinking.”

When Doug finally looked up at me, he was grinning. “I thought you’d hate it!”

“I did,” I told him, grinning back. “Because you made such darned good arguments.”

When the semester ended a couple days later, he gave me a quick hug as thanks, and we parted as friends with mutual respect. We didn’t have to agree with each other to appreciate each other.

Over the years I’ve discovered different kinds of people who I appreciate. For example, I’d never become Amish, but I wholly admire the life they live and how they remain mostly untouched by the outside world. I don’t want to convert to Judaism, but I deeply respect their culture, tenacity, and temerity. While I’ll never be a Muslim, I’ve gained greater understanding for them, primarily through chatting with a sweet Muslim family at a university dinner, and discovering how much we had in common.

I have many friends who, while not of my faith, still show support for what we do. On occasion I post pictures and stories about my children who are serving as LDS missionaries, and among those who comment kindly and like the posts are Lutherans, Baptists, and even a “recuperating atheist.” None of them are likely to join my church, but they’re happy to see the experiences of my children, as I am to see the successes of theirs.

We call this kind of appreciation and behavior “civility.” 

And despite what the news and social media would have us believe, it’s still a widely-held virtue, at least among many people I am blessed to associate with.

I have acquaintances who put up with my quirks and ideas without agreeing with them. One friend, who knows I’m trying to go vegetarian, delights in telling me how much meat she consumed that week. It’s friendly teasing, and I barb her back because we know we are safe with each other; we respect each other’s differences.

If I insisted that the only friends I’d have would be those who believed as I do in every last thing, I’d have no friends. I wouldn’t even be married, because there are number of issues on which my husband and I will never agree. Still, we manage around those, as we have for twenty-eight years, roll our eyes at each on occasion, then simply move on to one of many other things wherein we do agree.

No one in my family has precisely the same views on politics, music, literature, food, or education as I do. Yet still I love and appreciate all of them.

Indeed, if we all believed the same about everything, we’d be instantly bored with each other.

We need each other’s differences to challenge us, open us, expand us, and make us take second and third looks at what we thought we knew. We really don’t want homogeneity; we really need variety!

I’ve noticed that people tend to get fixated on rightness and wrongness. It’s been my experience that for a few key issues, usually dealing with life and death and personal agency, there are clear rights and wrongs.

But for the millions of other things we can bicker about, it really doesn’t matter. (I’ve heard people argue vehemently if cookies should be crunchy or chewy, of all stupid things.)*

Many dissimilar approaches can all be “right.” For example, what the “right” dress or music or meal may be for my adult daughters will not be the “right” one for me.

And I think there are times when all of us may be “wrong,” so what does “rightness” matter except to make more enemies in an argument where no winners can exist?

Civility doesn’t worry about who’s right. Civility chooses to exist despite its surroundings.

civility

My gay friend Paul never approached the topic of religion, nor did I approach the nature of his sexuality, except to ask where he found such a gorgeous man who could have been cast as Superman. We avoided the topics we knew might cause a rift, because we wanted to be friends.

Friendships can form even between people who spent an entire semester debating opposites sides, because of mutual respect for the other’s opinions. It’s been nearly 20 years, but I still think fondly of Doug.

I refuse to believe these incidents, or that civility itself, are from a past era, because I still see civility occurring among thoughtful, intelligent people all around me. Civility does not ...mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good. - Mahatma Gandhi

I see acts of kindness despite idiosyncrasies, and patience with others’ peculiarities. I frequently witness joy in differences. And if you want to be my friend even though I’ve got some strange ideas, I’d love to be friends with you, as long as you promise to keep me on my toes.

Let’s make civility fashionable again.

*Chewy.

“When people govern themselves honestly, there’s little need for mediation. ”
~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti