Monday, March 22, 2010

Thank you for Not....

Dr. Phil(my new best friend) says that we teach people how to treat us. He says that what we allow others to say to us and do to us is our own doing. We give cues and clues to other people that say, "It's ok to treat me like this." Heck most of us treat ourselves 100 times worse than anybody "out there." What do you think? (I know you have an opinion on that. Share it.)
You know for years I taught 7th graders. The first couple of years during my teaching career, I would get so angry and resentful if my students did not show appreciation for "all that I was doing for them." I pouted and did this passive-aggressive thing that you may have seen other adults in your life do. (Maybe you do it yourself? Fess up!) I would take homemade cupcakes on a Friday. When no student said, "Thank you," I steamed and stewed and acted all put-out. I am not sure when it finally dawned on me but, thank G_d it did: I was not there to fuss at the kids about what they did not know; I was in their lives partially to train them up to be good people. If they didn't come out with a "Thank You," then it was part of my job to explain to them how to show courtesy and gratitude. Punishment was out; kind training was in. This simple shift made a powerful difference in my classroom and in my life.

I look at what I have taught my own children and what I still think I am teaching them today. Sadly, it does not always match. When my older son, Cole, was a little boy, one particularly hectic Sunday morning we couldn't find matching socks or a little tie and breakfast was late. We were headed to church. (Sundays always brought out the worst in us.) Cole, walking in late to Sunday School announced, "My mother said to tell you that she's sorry we're so damn late." Ooops. Outed. Busted. My language and my angst were showing up all over his little life.

I don't allow anybody to smoke in my house. Have you got a "Thank you for not smoking" sign anywhere close to your back door? That is so clear cut to me: No smoking in my house. It's a rule. My home is my sanctuary, my refuge, my safe place to be. But here's my big fat spiritual question for today: Do I allow racist jokes or cruel gossip or petulant moods or cold shoulders to linger in my home? Is that worse than smoke? Do I have signs up around my house that say, "Thank you for not complaining, being rude, not helping, being self-centered?" How do others know what's ok with us in our lives? What messages do we send that shouts out, "This is who I am. Treat me like this, because that is how I probably treat myself....and will in turn, treat you."

Two of my siblings have little calligraphied notices that read, "Thank you for removing your shoes" near their front door. (Beautiful homes, beautiful people both) So, that's clear, right? Take off your shoes. The message is clear.
But what part of our body language and talk language communicates, " And,don't bring the crud of dishonesty, cover-up, or denial in with you."? Leave your bad attitude and all things you "hate" out by the trash can. How does that look in calligraphy?
If about 90% of what we communicate is not with words that come out of our mouths, what is it that, if there were a sign close by--what is it that our signs would say? Thank you for looking me in the eye? Thank you for calling me by name? Thank you for acknowledging my life's purpose?
Thank you for trying?
Thank you for looking honestly at yourself so that we can be honest together?
Like it or not, we're all wearing signs all the time, everywhere we go, whatever it is we're doing. Right this minute, yes, right this second, what would say?
(Don't you just love white-erase boards?)