I love to hear friends quote wise sayings drilled into them by their parents and grandparents, including those I learned myself. My personal favorites are:
“If you really wanted to do it, you’d find a way to do it.” (my mother)
“If it don’t come out in the wash, it’ll come out in the rinse.” (my Grandma Sadie)
“I pity the frog that don’t praise his own pond.” (my father-in-law)
My father was not one for uttering too many sayings, but he taught us some very concrete lessons that I am passing on to my children. One of the lessons he taught was actually a phrase I heard one of my uncles often say, “Every man’s name has a handle,” meaning people should be addressed by their proper title, whether professional or personal. My boss’ boss is the President of our hospital, as well as a physician. I have worked for him almost 20 years and we have a good professional relationship. Any time he sends me an email, he signs off with just his first name. But because of what I was taught, I still call him “Doctor.” Another physician I work closely with, who is around my age, has threatened me bodily harm if I don’t stop calling him “Doctor.” Needless to say my desire to respect his wishes overshadowed my childhood teaching, and it took me a long time to call him by his first name!
Older neighbors and other adults were never called by their first name, and even as an adult, I still call them “Mr. James” and “Miss Marie.” I remember the first time I was addressed as “Miss Calandra.” Coincidentally, it was the young man who shoveled snow in the neighborhood – his grandparents were our neighbors when I was a child. I didn’t feel old…I felt respected. And I was glad to see that the lesson his grandparents taught his father was passed on to him. We couldn’t even call older cousins by their first name. It was “Cousin Joan” and “Cousin Junior.” I learned from my husband’s grandmother that like in many Southern families, her younger siblings called her “Sister” because the smaller ones were much younger and were not to call their older sibling by her first name. It was a lesson in respect.
So of course, my children have already begun to learn the art of respect, by understanding that what we call people has much to do with how we treat people. It’s a simple lesson, but one I believe that will take them far.