14 Oct “Respecting each individual as a whole person” by Darcenia Teasdale
“That’s a good girl. Now you can put the petrol cap on.”
Last week, I was filling my car with petrol on the supermarket foreground when I heard this sentence across the pump. I heard a female voice, and thought she was praising her daughter. I was shocked when I looked up to see an elderly lady putting the petrol cap on, and finishing her usual task. The younger woman hovered over her and praised her again as she pressed the buttons to take her receipt and told her “Now you can get back in the car.”
I am sure if you are reading this you are making assumptions about the elderly lady and the younger woman. Maybe this was a client with a home help, or a neighbour. Maybe this woman was helping her client to go shopping and make sure she remembered her bank card.
In those few moments we all can make several assumptions about a person and their situation.
The difference in this situation is I know the elderly lady as an acquaintance. She is in her 70s, lives alone, widowed, no children, had a secretarial job for many years, and is a very active member of her community.
This lady who was called “a good girl” is a qualified theatre chaperone who takes responsibility for young actors and actresses at her local theatre. She manages their attendance, makes sure they follow health and safety, and at the end of rehearsals and performances, she ensures a parent or guardian picks them up.
I’m sure she was more than capable of filling her car with petrol and paying for it!
However, it was the patronising term of “good girl” which shocked me. It was the distinct lack of respect for an individual who has over 70 years of life experience, wisdom and responsibilities. The younger woman was treating the lady in a position that demeaned her, and disrespected her status completely.
However, I know this lady in a context of taking responsibility, giving to her community, and have chatted to her about her passion for theatre. The younger woman with her at the petrol station has very possibly not seen her in this context.
Our lives are compartmentalised through family, different friends, work, sports, hobbies, the school run, and often these parts of our lives hardly overlap. My work colleagues do not meet my friends from the school run or the theatre. As an individual we have different parts of personality which are prominent at different times, and we have different roles to play in each area in life.
We know that our own lives are compartmentalised, and we all enjoy to be respected in the different areas of our lives. Our beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and behaviours are all affected by our experiences and conditioning, it is the same for every individual we encounter.
Every individual we meet deserves our respect in the same way. Every individual develops as a person through their relationships, learning, culture, religion, hobbies, work, and travels – every interaction and moment has become a part of their life’s experience which we should respect.
“Respect is how to treat everyone, not just those you want to impress.” – Richard Branson
As you meet individuals in your life in the next week – through work, socially or in a sports, charity or interest related activity, think about that person intrinsically. Think about how you are meeting that person in your context. They are in a compartmentalised space just as you are. Just as you would like to be seen as a whole person and respected for all your experiences, positively determine to respect that individual in return.
Let’s all respect the whole person, and not just their position in our interaction within context.