Will somebody just slap me? Or better yet, hole, open up and swallow me!” – my thoughts during a conversation with my oldest son, Tyler, regarding my grandson, Andrew. Tyler told me about a situation, stating, “Mama, this person was so rude and ugly towards Drew when I introduced him to them.” After telling me how the person acted toward Drew, I immediately let my emotions get the best of me and I proceeded to tell Tyler how I would have handled the situation. I said, “I would have gotten my baby and his belongings and walked off from that… and I would have said…”
Tyler looked directly into my eyes and never blinked (a trait my mother taught me and I passed along to my children: When you are serious and mean business, look a person directly in their eyes – don’t blink – state your purpose). His beautiful brown eyes pierced me as he said, “But Mama, you taught me better than that – you raised me better. You taught me to treat people with kindness – even if they say something or do something you don’t like. You said, ‘If you can’t change the situation peacefully – then walk away’.” After his words, that’s when I thought, “Somebody just slap me, or hole, open up and swallow me!” I knew better and was ashamed of my behavior and advice. How many times had I preached to my children about being kind and respectful to others, and especially to an adult?
I quickly repented and said to Tyler, “You are right, I am wrong. You handled the situation in an appropriate manner and in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.”
In that moment, our roles reversed – my son became the teacher. My children are not perfect; nor am I. However, as a mother, I was so proud that my child actually listened to something positive that I repeatedly said to him over the years. Maya Angelou said, “Each of us, famous or infamous, is a role model for somebody, and if we aren’t, we should behave as though we are – cheerful, kind, loving, courteous. Because you can be sure someone is watching and taking deliberate and diligent notes.”
Ms. Angelou’s words of wisdom could have easily been uttered by my mother and other mothers. I remember Mama saying, “Be careful of the way you act toward others; be careful of the words you say to others; be careful of how you treat others; be careful of how you go up the ladder – you may have to pass those same people coming down the ladder,” etc. Her words impacted my life so, I purchased a huge wall hanging that has the familiar adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in scripted on it. It depicts many pictures of different ethnicities as well. I read it and look at it every day as a source of inspiration to try to live by.
Think of the impact of a mother’s teachings in the lives of children. Marian Wright Edelman said, “If you are a parent, recognize that it is the most important calling and rewarding challenge you have. What you do every day, what you say and how you act, will do more to shape the future of America than any other factor.” The way we teach and live in front of our children every day is very critical.
If we teach our children, and we adhere to the adage “Do unto others…” I believe our homes, communities, schools, churches, workplaces, state and, ultimately, the world, would be better. I thought about the impact a teacher has on students; the impact a pastor has on the congregation; etc. All of us have the potential to impact someone’s life – positively or negatively.
If you train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old – will he depart from it, or will he abide by your teachings? You be the judge.
JUANITA GAMBRELL FLOYD is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at firstname.lastname@example.org.