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Martin Luther Rose (from Reformation 500 Tour 2017) (c) 2017 Trina Lambert

I tend to spend my Saturdays away from the news, concentrating on household, family, and personal needs. Sometimes I forget that it appears that when the Leader of the Free World takes time away from the White House on weekends, he may squeeze in some recreation time by golfing, but he also tends to create more news by tweeting. Then I wake up on Sunday and realize more damage has been done to another group of people or individuals who have been attacked in a most unprofessional and cruel way. Oh, I pray in church, Lord do I pray—and sometimes I even begin writing blog posts.

At one time, I worked for a manager who was socially tone deaf. In his case, I don’t think he meant to harm people with what he said, but he did anyway. One day he came out to make small talk with his team, and then looked at my coworker and said, “My you look fat today, Steve.” I had had enough, even if he was my boss. I told him that we as people don’t always say what’s on our minds and he replied, “Well, I do.”

I told him he shouldn’t, but should do it based upon the situation at hand. Forgive me, but I still believe that sometimes we should moderate our unkind thoughts.

For everyone who says they elected the current president because he speaks his mind and just says what everyone else is thinking—well, then shame on you for thinking that we should all share our worst thoughts. We as a nation have elevated someone who cannot and will not stop speaking in awful ways—both about and to other people. And he does so in our names!

There was a time when we as a society knew it was impolite to say certain things. You can tell yourselves that was being too PC (politically correct), but it was simply about manners. Quite frankly, many of these derogatory terms and slights are really not as offensive to people higher up in the power structure than they are to those in the lower rungs of society. (You know, people who experience prejudice based upon something about their race, sex, religious beliefs—anything where you can start out an accusation with a “you people” before it.)

But they offend me—and I know they do offend many people who are part of a “privileged” group, despite our backgrounds. Just because I am a descendant of blonde Germans and Danes doesn’t make me special. Down one branch I have relatives whose robes (think triple letters in the middle of the alphabet) were found in their closet when they died. I cannot atone for their actions, words, or beliefs, but I can be held responsible for my own—and for how I raised my children who are grown adults now, and who are also appalled with what is being said and done by the highest officer of this nation.

What happened to all the “radical” songs of love we sang in church in the 70s? Did we not mean them? In my church, we sang from Ray Stevens’ “Everyone is Beautiful”: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children all of the world, red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I still think all children are precious: blonde-, black-, red-, brown-, blue-, or no-haired. I think we should care if their homes are flooded or if their cities are bombed or if they’re afraid of the law enforcement people who are called to protect them. I want to believe our level of caring has nothing to do with whether they’re brown or shades of it—or not.

And on that topic, if the leader won’t choose to say something in a respectful and decent manner, then I don’t care to hear what his innermost thoughts are. Instead, I want him to act and speak with the gravity of speaking for our nation. Or how about speaking simply with the civility many of us strove to teach our children? In our house, we didn’t say the “s” word (“stupid”). My kids were taught that it’s not okay to call people names (especially the kind that used to be bleeped out on TV) or tell them they are something such as a lazy person versus someone exhibiting an attribute such as acting lazy. Instead, you call out their actions and behaviors—using factual proofs, of course, not just innuendo.

A person who is acting a certain way is not necessarily that at his or her core. Unless the actions happen again and again without changing and without apology or any demonstration of a belief that anything needs to change. In that case, you get to judge a person on the content of the character as demonstrated.

Authority is earned. Consider me civilly disobedient.

Respectfully submitted,

A Concerned Citizen of the USA and a Child of God

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. Dave Barry

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Everyone in a workplace has a backstory—how he or she got to that job, as well as the life led in the hours away from work. People are more than their jobs—and thank goodness for that. Life happens 24 hours a day, whether or not a person is working.

Here’s a bit about my own backstory in the work place. Almost 30 years ago I arrived in Denver during another tough job market with a liberal arts degree (in English) from a good mid-western college—a college no one knew about in this region. While I still believe in studying the liberal arts, I will concede that gaining employment with a brand new liberal arts degree is harder than if a person had studied something that led to a definite career path.

So eventually I decided to start at the bottom of a company in an industry where I wanted to grow. Thus I became a receptionist at a magazine publishing company. No matter that they would have hired me a day after graduating high school—or maybe not, since at that point I had yet to teach myself to type in order to produce all those English literature papers.

Kids, this backstory about answering telephones is no fictional device—back in those dark ages, real people actually answered telephones—there were no automated phone trees. And phone calls were expected to be answered within a ring or two, even if several lines were ringing. Talk about causing stress for a person who really wanted to take care of each person individually. Then add to that the stress caused by a total lack of logic regarding additional duties. With a phone system that was not at all mobile, I was also supposed to make coffee (and clean up any messes caused by others), water plants, prepare all business mail coming in and going out, prepare a bank deposit, type any letters asked of me, sharpen the publisher’s pencils (5 a day—no exceptions), and go in to the publisher’s office to tell her when she had another call if she were already on the line—all while not asking those assigned to back-up phone duty to do so too often.

My liberal arts degree did teach me how to be flexible, but not how to do the impossible. The job was hard enough without many people treating me as if I had no skills or knowledge, even when I caught any errors in documents I was given to type or when they read my detailed and accurate messages or if I knew that a phone call from a certain Malcolm Forbes was a big deal. For so many of the staff, a receptionist was just a person who was beneath them. So can you blame me for putting a picture of me in my college graduation gown on my desk?

However, those who called in couldn’t see my little photo. The magazine’s policy required me to ask for a personal and company name so I could announce the information in order for our people to answer their calls with a personal response. (Yes, I was caller ID for our staff members!) Many of our callers found this policy offensive, I guess because they, too, were so important. My second day on the job, I asked a caller, “May I say who is calling?” His reply came, “You know who this is. I call every week.” To which I replied, “I’m sorry, sir, this is my second day on the job so I really don’t know who you are and I am following company policy.” And, no, though I got his name, I never received an apology.

Thank goodness for those other callers who treated me as the human I was. Their decency and small kindnesses got me through three harsh months before I got promoted into a position where I only backed-up the receptionist. To this day I can’t forget the name of the gracious woman who published the city’s social register and how she went out of her way to thank me for being so courteous and diligent each time she called. I only wish my backstory included more such names.

Backstory—it’s something to remember as new college and high school graduates go out into the world or as other students take to summer jobs. These people are more than just the people learning their jobs or meeting (or learning how to meet) your needs. They have backgrounds and lives away from work. They deserve to be treated with respect, whether that is in day-to-day interactions or even when they need to be reprimanded for some on-the-job mistake.

I like to think that I didn’t have to work retail, clean toilets, bus tables, or answer phones to learn how to treat people well, but I also think that having those jobs really taught me to understand that there is a human being behind all the people who perform activities for me. In case I’m ever tempted to assume I’m so much better than someone, I try to remember what it’s like to clean up after someone who deliberately made a mess on a table or who even left a mess around the coffee station at work, believing they were too important to clean up after themselves. The truly defective person is the one who treats “underlings” with disrespect rather than the person who earns less or who performs an unglamorous job. Actions and words speak louder than titles or rank.

That’s also why I like to remember the backstories of people who I see all the time—even when I’m the one paying them and they have fancier letters behind their names. I try to understand a bit about who people are outside their jobs, such as knowing that the receptionist at physical therapy worries about watching out for her elderly father, or that the older PT had concerns about her kids, too, or that the younger PT’s dog shares a similarly disgusting habit with my dogs. They are real people to me, not just a position, title, or a means to an end.

These days I, for one, do my best to avoid places where others work so hard to try to make me feel small. I also do my best to check myself if I find myself minimizing others and their efforts. The more all of us realize that other people have backstories too, the likelier we are to create workplaces and other social environments where we treat each other with respect, concern, and empathy.

Trying to keep others small so you can be big is the kind of backstory that should be history.

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