Hollie Grimaldi Flores: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
It’s about respect — or more accurately, the lack of respect — that has been consuming my thoughts over the past few months. When did we, as humans, stop offering our respect to our elders, to our officials, to law enforcement, to teachers? The list goes on and on.
I was recently fortunate enough to attend the 20th Lake Tahoe Summit, which showcased a number of public officials including our senators, governor and the President of the United States speaking on the topic of resources devoted to Lake Tahoe and the need to continue to protect it. The more than 7,000 people in attendance were not all fans of the President. But for the most part, they showed respect while he spoke.
There was some protesting, and he did address someone who kept interrupting him, but he was able to deliver his message. I was excited to see a sitting President live — but some in my immediate circle said they would not be bothered. When I told people I attended — people who do not agree with the President’s politics — I was shocked to hear how they referred to him. I don’t think you have to agree with everything he says or does, but he is the President of the United States of America and that should come with at least a bit of decorum.
This particular election cycle seems to be showing the American people at their very worst. The behavior is appalling. The name calling is childish. The lack of respect is abysmal.
I believe this gradual (or maybe not so gradual) change in societal behavior has been nothing short of damaging to our culture as a whole. I realize that is a pretty broad statement — but somewhere along the way, we got lost.
When I was growing up, adults were addressed by their surnames. It didn’t matter how long I knew them, the adults in my life were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. ___. It was a sign of respect. I didn’t actually know the first names of many of my friends’ parents and certainly did not know the first names of casual classmates’ parents! My friends’ parents were Mr. and Mrs.___. Teachers were Mr., Mrs. or Miss. To this day! A couple of years ago, I wrote a note to a teacher who had inspired me in high school and addressed my note: Dear Mr. Seeger:
As a teen, I was mortified when my friend referred to her mother by her first name.
“What did your Mom think?” I asked. “Loretta was great,” she responded.
“Loretta? You call your mother Loretta?!” I would never! As a matter of fact, Loretta responded to me on a recent Facebook post and I still said, “Thank you, Mrs. ___!”
When I became a Mrs. and later a parent, I was uncomfortable with the Mrs. title from my children’s friends. It felt too formal. I went with the then popular “Miss Hollie.” While not as formal, there was still a separation; still a sign of respect. We weren’t buddies. I was the adult. My children referred to their day care providers as Miss (insert first name here). However, in grade school the traditional Mr. Mrs. or Miss was back in place, where I felt it belonged. I could relax. Until my son came home at the start of his year in fifth grade and began talking about Steve. Steve?
“Don’t you mean Mr. ____?” I asked. “No,” was his reply. “He says we can call him Steve.“ It continued intermittently through high school, varying from teacher to teacher, but I have to say, I think it was a mistake.
Addressing someone older than you or someone in a position of authority with the sign of respect that comes with using the formal Mr., Mrs. or Miss, carries weight beyond the greeting. When we treat our children as equals, we send a confusing message. And, as that generation has grown, the lack of respect has continued. We are not all on the same playing field and those in authority should be, at the very least, addressed with all due respect.
What’s in a name? I hear that argument. I say there is a lot more than the use of the name at stake.
I am not foolish enough to think reinstating the practice of addressing people by their surnames is going to solve the world’s problems. But if we show the tiniest bit of respect upon meeting, maybe listening to others’ opinions might follow. And by being open to ideas we don’t agree with, maybe we can learn something, maybe we can compromise.
And just maybe, we can all get along.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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