The way I see it, values are better demonstrated than merely spoken about.
In terms of societal development, children are taught the values, mores and general cultural traits of the community in which they exist.
So, if the elders in the community are accustomed to dress and go about their business in a half-naked manner, with just a piece of cloth around their waists, then the child would be groomed in the self-same way.
If it is a society where it is a valuable principle to have the body properly covered in public, so too the young ones will be taught similarly.
Any behaviour outside of that acceptable norm will be scoffed at and may draw reprimands and/ or punitive measures.
And so, I grew up in Fenton Hill where my parents taught us to be polite and ‘mannersable’ to all with whom we made contact.
So, we were well aware that for whatever reason, they somehow did not get along with two of the neighbours: Emily and Eileen. The reason was not for us to know because ‘that was big people business.’
However, there were the occasional cussings, especially from the neighbours’ end, about fowls coming into their land or pigs destroying something or other and the usual threats of going to the Police and taking the animals to the dreaded POUND.
Through all of that, when we as children passed Emily and Eileen on the road, we were supposed to say ‘Good morning or good afternoon’ etc.
So this day, as I was passing Emily, just around Fenton Hill corner, I said quite politely and clearly: ‘Good afternoon.’
To my shock, that salutation elicited a reaction I certainly could not have expected.
Emily suddenly walked quickly to catch up my extended shadow on her side of the road and began to mash the head of the shadow, stamping at it vigorously with her two feet, as I tried to get out of her way. All the while shouting: ‘Stop provoking me or I will call the Police for you!’
Well I newa!
All jokes aside, I really was not trying to provoke the woman. I was taught to be polite to everyone, even if they did not get along with my parents.
I was so scared that after that, I had to vigorously remember not to say anything to her as we passed on the road. Not even to wave my hand.
Now if I was to let that kind of behaviour settle in and become a part of my psyche, where would I be today?
Fortunately, the basic good stuff that my parents taught me, remain with me up until today and I still give due respect to all. Wish our youngsters can emulate such behavioural patterns!
Believe it or not, as I grew into manhood, I maintained my efforts in not trying to ‘provoke’ Emily when we passed on the road and she normally passed in a huff, because I was ‘Luther’s son.’
Early in my working career, I started with a brief stint at the Treasury in Charlestown. I was assigned duties in the section dealing with parcels.
The job was pretty simple. The folks came with their slip of paper, I looked for the box or other package with their names; asked them to open it and based on the contents, I would use the tariff sheet provided to charge the required government duties.
On this day, everything was going fine……until Emily stepped into the Treasury.
At first, I paid her no mind, as she could have been dealing with some other form of business. But to my shock and chagrin, I realized that she had one of those slips of paper in her hand and was headed straight to me!
Now dear reader, what would you have done in a situation like that?
Well, I was green and a mere novice in the world of work, being just 16 years old.
She came to me and I said: ‘Good morning.’ I believe there was a little tremor in my voice because the Treasury was packed on that day and I really did not know what to expect from the woman.
I was hoping that she did not recognize me but those hopes were dashed when she snarled: ‘Oh is you?’
I asked politely how I could help and she threw the slip of paper on the counter. I took it up and searched for and found a box bearing her name.
I gave it to her and she grabbed in and proceeded to the door. I called out to her and said, ‘excuse me, you have to open it.’
‘Open it for wha?’ She snarled. I knew that world war three was about to begin and my heart sank.
‘It’s just the policy here,’ I stammered.
She threw the box on the counter and in her loudest possible voice, she shouted: ‘Open it and I hope you find some soap to wash you stinking skin!’
Some people in the Treasury laughed. I felt really humiliated and embarrassed.
However, I managed to tell her that I wanted her to open it.
She ripped the box open in her anger with such force that a number of items spilled onto the floor. Among them was a plastic with some marbles, which I believed, belonged to a little boy who she was raising at the time.
As the marbles rolled all over the floor, the people had another occasion to laugh, because an obviously flustered Emily spent several minutes chasing after the marbles to procure them.
I could not laugh. I duly examined her stuff and told her how much she had to pay; collected the money and gave her a receipt.
As she left the building, she offered a parting shot, which amused those close to her. I do not what she said but it was obvious that it was not complimentary.
Fast forward to many years later:
One rainy Sunday morning, as I was driving towards town, I saw a lady in the distance with an umbrella, apparently going to church. As the vehicle approached her, she looked back and waved hopefully, obviously begging a lift. When I realized that it was Emily, a number of thoughts raced through my head and then the question came to my mind: What would Jesus have done?
I stopped and she jumped in. She said ‘good morning’ in a pleasant manner and then her demeanour changed. For a moment, it looked as if she was going to go back out in the rain and then she relaxed.
I drove her right in front the church gate and she came out and said ‘thank you.’
Ever since that day, I have spoken to her and she has responded more times than not. Well that was before she became sick. I have not seen her in a while.
That has taught me a lesson for life:
Treat people the way you would want to be treated.
That’s the way I see it. How do you see it?