Saturday, May 7, 2016

A life's turning point: you deserve to be treated with respect

I shared the following story with some of my Junior High students recently:

Shortly after I returned from my mission, I was living at home trying to decide where I wanted to finish my University degree. One of my sibling's spouses had recently left her and their three-week-old baby girl. My parents had invited my sibling and her daughter to come and live with them while she decided what she would, and could, do.

She was also in need of employment. My father insisted that I contact our ward employment specialist and find out from him what was available. Instead of calling him on the phone, I walked to his nearby home, collected the paperwork and information, brought it home, and gave it to my sister.

There was a lot of stress and contention in the house. My parents were making their wishes known to my sibling who was resisting their help. I have never cared for conflict so I went outside to shoot some hoops hoping to get my mind off of the problems that were brewing inside.

A few minutes later, the front door opened and my father came outside to where I was.

"I told you to call him and get the information we need!!"

"Dad, I went to his house and got all the information. Sibling has it. I am not going to call him, there is no need."

"We are inside, in the middle of a family crisis, and all you can do is shoot baskets??!!"

He came at me grabbing the basketball from my hands, and cocked his arm as if he were going to throw the ball at my head.

I braced myself for the forthcoming onslaught.

Looking him straight in the eyes, I spoke. "I am a human being and I deserve to be treated with respect."

He met my determination, stood there for several seconds, then threw the ball on the driveway and stomped inside.

After he left, I picked up and held onto the basketball. I was shaking from the confrontation. To that point in my life, I had never stood up to my father. I was actually quite surprised I had and that I lived to tell about it. Then, and since, I have often wondered from where the courage and those words came. From wherever, I was certainly grateful. And, that encounter completely changed the direction of my life.

As I recounted this story to my students, they sat spellbound, their eyes big.

I continued, "Some of you may have already had experiences similar to this, or you will have something like this happen to you where someone wants to be mean to you, or they want to hurt you, or try and tell you that you are less than you are for whatever reason. You do not let them tell you anything of the sort. You are a human being and you deserve to be treated with respect. Whether it is a friend, or even a teacher, a parent, or anyone else who is trying to make you seem less than who you are, you remember: you are a human being and you deserve to be treated with respect."