Eight Lessons My Mother Taught Me About Decency

Contemplating the recent election, I recalled my childhood, sitting on the floor with my mother, my favorite stuffed bear on my lap. Still a young woman, she read to me from a picture book and pointed to a black and white photograph of Rosa Parks.

I was puzzled. The historic figure looked like the nice, ordinary ladies that mother and I would routinely see on the bus or the park. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Mother was teaching me about the history of racism and civil rights in this country so that certain words and behaviors would be intolerable. She wanted abhorrence to injustice to stick within her daughter.

I remember the lessons mother taught me,

  • Give up your seat to nice others—Even if the person’s green like Kermit. We are all equal under the sun.
  • Do something for someone else. Call grandma.
  • Each individual is responsible for creating a just world.  I was to share my tuna sandwich if another kid was hungry. And not throw my trash on the floor.
  • Bullies are just small, insecure people. They travel in herds. Like sheep.
  • Righteous ignorance and stupidity are dangerous. It was important to read books.
  • Do the right thing. You can’t fool yourself.
  • The purpose of my education was to build character. That was the true measure of a person.
  • Faith is invisible. There really was a Santa, even though I always seemed to miss his visit

Now, I am grappling with the darkness in the world. There is so much that can’t be explained to a child. Like a rainbow in New York City.





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