The Priority of Presence

man on cellphone

Have you ever been in a line at the store and the person at the cash register was on their cell phone while they were making their transaction? Did you notice the look on the cashier’s face and the obvious inability of the person on their cell to pay attention to the transaction and the person on the phone at the same time? Annoying wasn’t it? It was annoying to you, it was rude and disrespectful to the sales clerk and it was slowing up the line!

Back in the day (as my son is so fond of saying) there were written codes of social etiquettes, to which we could refer to in understanding how to eat with the correct silverware and things like that. There were things and behaviors that were universally accepted as being fit and proper. However, in this day and time, it seems that the rule of thumb is; no rules, anything goes!

However, I think the tried and true Golden Rule is still applicable in our modern times: “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” Therefore, in reference to cell phone manners, I would like to propose the practice of the priority of presence. The priority of presence is simply the practice of giving the person in your presence priority over the person in your ear. If the person in your ear (on the cell phone) is important enough to warrant a conversation, then common courtesy dictates delaying any interaction with people in your presence. Now, I know some who might read this might think that engaging in such a practice would severely slow their communication; after all, we all have so much to do with so little time to do it! But, is completing our tasks so important that we consistently de-humanize others and ourselves in the process? Is getting everything done worth doing nothing well?

Now this situation is not much better with people who use ear buds! You think they are walking around talking to themselves! And when they are on the phone and looking in your direction, you think they are talking to you! Many states have banned cellphone use while driving. There is a reason for that: The average person cannot chew gun and walk at the same time! (Smile) Seriously, when one’s attention and focus is divided, operating a vehicle is dangerous! I suggest the practice of the priority of presence while using the cell phone because when one’s attention is divided, it is rude, annoying, and counter-productive for all involved in the communication process!

Be the Change, Make the Change: My Thoughts on Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, & America

In the circles I travel, there is a familiar saying: “Prayer changes things!” But I have discovered that more often than not; prayer changes people and it’s the people changed by prayer who change things!

tmartinzimmermanAs I write this post, I am reflecting on the state of our nation in regard to the recent findings of the jury in the George Zimmerman trial. Whether we agree with the verdict of the jury or not, this case has brought to the forefront the age-old problem of respect, race, and ethnicity in America. On one hand there are those who cry for justice because they feel that justice was not served in this case. On the other hand, there are those who say that the verdict has been given and whether we like it or not, we need to move on.

In my opinion, I don’t think justice was served! It was tragic that an unarmed Black teenager was unnecessarily killed and it is tragic that his killer goes free with no repercussions! My thoughts and prayers are with the Martin family as they deal with the loss of a son and the loss of justice! My thoughts and prayers are also with George Zimmerman and his family as he and they deal with the reality that his actions were most likely motivated by the racial and cultural profiling that is rampant in America.

Now while I sympathized with the Martin family, I am at the same time, sickened by the hypocrisy of the Black community! This case received national attention and there is presently protest in the Black community and elsewhere ONLY because the victim was Black and the accused is perceived to be White! (Actually, according to Mr. Zimmerman; he is Hispanic) If George Zimmerman was a Black man, chances are, we would have never heard of this incident! Therefore I ask: What about the countless unarmed Black victims that are being gunned down EVERYDAY in Black communities as a result of Black on Black violence and crime? Who speaks for them? Where is the national outrage and protest about innocent unarmed Black children being killed in the crossfire of drug-turf wars in Black communities nearly every day! There is no national protest about that! Now again, this is not to minimize what happened to Trayvon Martin! But it very well could be that part of the reason other people de-value the lives of Black people is because Black people de-value the lives of Black people! We (I mean Black people) have run the Klu Klux Klan and other White-supremacy groups out of business! It wasn’t very long ago that Black parents feared their sons would be killed by the Klan; now Black parents fear their sons will be killed by other Black sons! Where is the national protest about that? We crucify Paula Dean for racial slurs she admitted to have uttered in the past; but what about the demeaning racial slurs Black people berate one another with in personal conversations, rap songs and videos every day? Call me old-school if you want, but to me, that is part of the problem! If you don’t respect yourself, it’s crazy to think other people will respect you! If we are going to boycott Paula Dean, we also need to boycott the gangster and hip-hop rappers who are getting paid to disrespect Black women and others with their profane lyrics!

So where do go from here? What do we do? To my White brothers and sisters, I would suggest that you remember that at the core, people are just people. It is not a person’s race or color that really defines them; it is their character! With that in mind, I would suggest we all take a serious look at revising a judicial system that has turned into a warehouse distribution center for the new plantations otherwise known as the penal system. To my Black brothers and sisters, we need to take responsibility for our own and respect ourselves! Quit being so quick to always place the blame on the “others” when often (not all the time; but more often than not) the blame is with the “brothers” (and sisters)!

How can change happen on a national scale? Don’t expect it to come through legislation or laws. It will come; one person at a time! It will come when we, as individuals, quit demanding, depending, or waiting on other people to change! If there is to be real change, then we as individuals, must be changed, be the change and make the change!

The Matter of Respect

Respect imageSome people kill or engage in other illegal activities; trying to get it! Others do things they normally wouldn’t do; trying to get it! Still others buy things they can’t afford, to impress people they don’t even like; trying to get it! What are they trying to get? Respect! By definition, respect is the state or quality of being highly esteemed. We all want respect and we all want to be respected! We all want to be regarded and have a sense of worth and importance.

But think about it for a minute! Why does a person have to “do” something in order to gain or earn respect? Why can’t a person be respected simply because they are? In other words, why can’t respect simply be a given? Shouldn’t the very fact that a person “is” be enough for them to be respected? I want to encourage you to quit jumping through hoops, quit standing on your head, and quit turning backward flips trying to earn the respect of people! The very fact that you are is enough! And if they don’t respect you for that; that’s their problem not yours!

The bottom line is that many times people fail to exhibit respect toward others because they don’t respect themselves! Before you can respect others; you must first respect yourself! And in order to respect yourself; you must like and love yourself! Now, I’m not talking about the type of self-love that some people have where they are so in love with themselves that no one else in the world matters. (A prime example of this is a commercial I saw once where a man said to a young lady: “I’m tired of talking about myself; so I’m going to give you a chance to talk about me!”) No! I’m talking about having a healthy regard for yourself that promotes healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. If you don’t like yourself; why should other people like you? The first step in having the respect of others is to have respect for yourself!

And the first step in respecting others is understanding that every person is in a sense, an expression of the Divine! The Bible says that humanity was created in the image and likeness of God! Although that image has been tarnished by sin, faults, and failures, nevertheless, the image is still there! Therefore, the street-walker, the pimp, the prostitute, the gang-banger, the drug-addict, the homeless, and others that many in society do not highly esteem are indeed expressions of God! Every person is worthy of respect, not for what they do; but simply because they are! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who created them! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself, for at some level you and they are inseparably connected!

So, the next time you feel down because you think no one respects you, perhaps because of the mistakes you may have made in the past, remember the only people who have never made mistakes are the people who have never lived! Ask for God’s forgiveness and be sure to forgive yourself. Then, ask those you have offended for their forgiveness. And if those you have offended refuse to forgive you; don’t lose any sleep over it! Let it go and move on! The next time you are tempted to disrespect another person; remember that person is a creation of God! To disrespect them is to disrespect the God who made them and the God who made you! To disrespect them is to disrespect yourself! You can’t have one without the other! You can’t have respect for yourself without having respect for others! And you can’t have respect for others without having respect for yourself! Remember: People shouldn’t have to earn your respect and neither should you have to earn their respect! Respect should be mutually given! And respect should not be given because of what someone does; but merely because someone is! Our very existence is reason enough for respect!