My wife and I recently enjoyed a wonderful local theater production entitled “Seeing Stars in Dixie,” written by Ron Osborne. The small cast included several good friends who have richly entertained us through past performances, and we loved seeing them on stage once again.
One of the characters was a miserable, conniving, back-stabbing gossip who truly did mean things to those who crossed her. Although she got her deserved “come-uppance” at the end, there was one line uttered by the star that stayed in my mind. During a rather heated exchange with the evil woman she said, “My mama told me that if I can’t say something good about someone, I shouldn’t say it all. But Mama never met you!”
For some reason that line reminded me of how intolerant society – in general – has become. And I don’t understand it. Why are we less civil to each other? What happened to common courtesy? And why can’t we appreciate or evaluate another’s point of view without anger?
I remember with great clarity how we treated each other the week following 9/11. We were united in our patriotism and love for America. We were polite to each other, almost to the extreme. Drivers were courteous, even in heavy traffic, and road-rage was nonexistent. Although that state of “nirvana” didn’t last long, we were never as uncivil to each other then as we are now.
I’m reminded of how my central Florida neighborhood was heavily damaged by Hurricane Donna in 1960. In the aftermath, the entire community came together to help each other. The men cleared the roads and roof tops of fallen trees with their chain saws while the women prepared food aplenty and kept us well fed. We kids did what we could, dragging debris to a vacant lot or two to be chipped into mulch later.
So, if disaster brings us together, what is it about life and human nature that drives us apart? Can we not find common ground through which we can be better neighbors, better people and respect each other? Life is too short to live with divisiveness and anger.
Share a smile with a stranger, offer to assist your neighbor, become a community volunteer, be kind to others, and entertain a positive frame of mind. Doing so won’t change the world, but it will change your world, and that’s likely to be a good thing for you, your friends, and your family. After all, we’d never want someone to say, “My mama told me that if I can’t say something good about someone, I shouldn’t say it at all. But Mama never met you!” Yeah…..