by Father Mark Goldasich
Sadly, it’s a common scene anymore.
Head back to the Kansas City Chiefs game against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football a couple of weeks ago. Kareem Hunt had just scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown for the Chiefs. The camera showed him in the end zone celebrating with his teammates while facing some Broncos fans. Although you couldn’t hear any words (probably a good thing), you couldn’t miss the obscene gesture flashed at the Chiefs by some Denver fans in the front row.
“We’re better than this” was my first thought. I wasn’t referring to who won or lost that game. I meant that we as human beings are better than the disrespectful behavior that we seem all too ready to display nowadays.
It’s like a pandemic. Our political discourse has deteriorated into intractable positions and mutual distrust. Tweets and social media posts display disturbing prejudices and unfounded allegations. Violence and abuse have infiltrated workplaces and families.
Someone has got to turn the tide.
The writer Leo Tolstoy tells a wonderful story about a man who stops on the street to give some alms to a beggar. As he reaches into his pocket, however, he realizes that he left his money at home.
Stammering his explanation, the man said to the beggar, “I am sorry, brother, but I have nothing.”
“Nevermind, brother,” said the beggar. “That too was a gift.” (Adapted from “A Treasury of Quips, Quotes & Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers” by Anthony Castle.)
What the beggar meant was that simply being acknowledged as a brother — rather than a bother — was a gift even better than money. In other words, the man showed respect to the beggar as a fellow human being.
It’s October once again and that means Respect Life Month in the church. Naturally, we need to stay on top of the big life issues, but let’s not forget the “respect” part either. It’s in day-to-day situations that each of us has a choice to make: to be respectful or its opposite.
This month is a prime time to take a refresher course on how to be respectful . . . and then to practice it. Here are some starting points:
- Don’t be rude. Pepper your speech with an abundance of words like “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me” and “I’m sorry.”
- Pick up after yourself. When finished with a drinking glass, for example, don’t leave it in the family room for someone else to deal with. Instead, take it to the kitchen and put it in the sink or dishwasher.
- Don’t bully others. This doesn’t just apply to kids. Watch not only the words that you use, but also the tone in which you say them. Don’t pressure others when they say “no” to a request.
- Listen to your elders. Honor them by visiting frequently, especially if they live alone or in nursing facilities.
- Treat the property of others with care. Pope Francis has often said that the Earth is our “common home.” Doing things like not littering or not wasting resources can be an act of respect and charity.
- Take care with social media. Use it as a vehicle to truly be social (and build bridges) rather than antisocial (and sow division).
- Enter into the messiness of life. Jesus didn’t avoid widows and orphans, the poor, the sick, or those considered sinners or outsiders. There’s no shortage of people, maybe even in our family or parish, who are struggling physically, mentally or emotionally. Reaching out to them — in person, by phone or in a letter or email — with encouragement, rather than judgment, could be a beacon of hope to a suffering soul.
Vienna Cobb Anderson has written this little prayer, found on the belief.net site. How about saying it at the beginning or end of each day this Respect Life Month:
“Most merciful God, there are many in this city who hate themselves, who consider their lives worthless, who have not known the healing of love. Touch them with the wonder and power of your transforming love that their lives may be made whole, that they may find fulfillment in life, that they may rejoice in your blessing.”
Now back to that football game above. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had a unique response to those angry fans. He pretended to take their “offending fingers” and put them in his pocket.
His unexpected, respectful and humorous response may be just what we need to turn the tide.
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