Published June 1, 2006
My dog Skip was walking me last night around dusk. Usually, JD and Birdy tag along on their bikes resulting in a trio of Mahers taking a couple laps around the neighborhood. Our neighborhood has around 300+ homes situated within a little canyon and the walk is nice at that time of the day when the sun is low in the horizon and the breeze is starting to kick in. It’s the best way to get to know the neighbors and see the latest additions in landscaping and home improvements. We made our way across the top of the dam at Crystal Lake which is the centerpiece of our little community, when we noticed a neighbor on his deck that we hadn’t seen in a while. Our neighbor Sam offered us all a cool beverage. As JD and Bird made their way into his backyard, I decided to keep up the pace. As I monitored my pulse and Skip’s tongue which lollygagged off the side of his mouth in synch with my heart rate, I sent them to socialize with an old friend. “We’ll catch up to you later Hon” JD said, and I bid them to say hello to Sam for me.
I made my way around the usual circle we take, when I spotted a bunch of teens near the park. Shouts and indiscernible teasing made way to a couple of boys whipping their “girlfriends” with their shirts and one of the boys wrestling one of the girls to the pavement in a rough and careless manner. I knew the one on the ground was obviously female because her jeans were low and her shirt rode high on her midriff. The boys were loud, obnoxious and showed no respect at all in the manner they treated these girls and I wondered to myself at what point would I step in and say something. As I thought about it, I walked on and let the moment pass. “I should have said something”, I said aloud to Skipper who was already around the corner and tugging me along with him like a snow dog. These girls were younger than my Shannon, who is now 15 years old, and how would I feel if these girls were my own daughters? I would be furious. I knew underneath their nervous pleas and laughter, these girls just wanted a little respect from their friends. They were not enjoying it one bit. It was sad to see how little respect was shown to them from boys who should have known better.
My thoughts gave way to reflection. How would I want my son to treat a young lady? How would I want a young man to treat my daughters? Commanding respect is a two way street. It involves training from the very beginning. It goes as far back as saying please and thank you, dressing modestly and minding your manners. I guess one can only command enough respect in the manner that one gives it himself, but I wondered if those girls were really aware of their infinite worth and value? Did they need someone to tell them that they deserved better than that?
It reminded me of a time a year or so ago, while at a local juice bar in Folsom, passing a boy and two girls who were leaving as we entered. He was talking about another girl and used the most disgusting filth of a word to describe her to these other two girls that it stopped me in my tracks to hear these words come from such an innocent looking boy. Let’s just say it was rated XXX. I felt sorry for all of them. He thought nothing of his young friends, to say the least, to let this roll out of his mouth and yet, they didn’t think twice about listening to him talk in this way. Their youthfulness and beauty were completely marred by the ugliness of their vocabulary. What a shame to see youthful promise thrown down the toilet with really bad and disrespectful vocabulary.
JD visited Washington DC last weekend for Memorial Day with his friend Gus, a lobbyist for Veteran Affairs. While paying their respects at Arlington National Cemetery, they were fortunate to meet the Marines who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They were allowed to enter their dressing area and talk to them while they were preparing for a shift change. JD described this as an awesome experience and lesson in respect. Their whole job is to show respect, not only to each other as they take turns guarding the Tomb, but for those whose memory and names are known only by God.
Behind closed doors and out of the public eye, as the new Guard prepares to take his place, his fellow soldier inspects his uniform, straightens every pin, tie and button. He is beyond spit polished; he is completely and totally impeccable for his 30 minute shift which rotates around the clock 24 hours every day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year no matter the time of day, or weather. Their ritual of respect does not wane in rain, shine, hurricane or snow. The men are decorated war heroes themselves, who after their active duty is done, dedicate themselves to the ‘Unknown’ in a manner of respect that is more than awesome, but awe inspiring. Every step they take is purposeful, their mission clear, their oaths are true. They command as much respect as they give, which when one witnesses the dignity of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown, one can only marvel at their fierce sense of loyalty, duty and dedication.
One particular oath they take before taking on this special duty is that they will never use a curse or cuss word for the rest of their lives. There is something about that part of their ritual which I greatly admire. Now that’s more than a little respect!
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org