When I was growing up in the Bronx, my buddies and I and would tease each other,push each other around,"play fight," and generally do things to each other that would land us in juvenile hall today. The difference was that we would always be careful.
That all changed when one afternoon, we were all gathered on the stoop at the front of my house (the front staircase) as usual. As my sister was coming home, in typical fashion we stood in her way. When I told everybody to move, one of my friends showed us his true color, calling my sister the "N" word (you know, the one that rhymes with bigger...).
As I lunged toward him to wring his neck, he started to run. My Dad had been doing some work on our backyard and had some bricks laying nearby. I reached for one of them and in one fell swoop, hurled it in my friends' direction, don't ask me how, but I hit him with it. In an instant, I found out my true color...I had a temper.
Later that day, when my Dad came home from work, and found out what I did, he was none too pleased with me, to say the least. He marched me to my friends' house, where we encountered my buddy's Dad, who was as you can imagine, quite angry. My Father saw what I had done, and in turn wrote him a check to cover the medical cost at the time, which was a little north of $350.00 dollars.
On the way back to our house, I nervously explained what my friend had said to my sister. Surprise; my Dad didn't discipline me, but we sat down, and he laid out some ground rules for dealing with people who are bullies, as well as people who are prejudice. Daddy said that I had to be careful. He contended that if you got to know people better, or even if you summed them up on the fly, you stood a much better chance to avoid situations like the one that ended up costing him, part of his hard earned salary, and me, my allowance for 6 months.
Fast forward to 2015, I look around me today, and see so many folks dealing with their tempers and their prejudices in the way that Frankie and I dealt with ours...very sad.
I can't understand for the life of me where we have gone so horribly wrong in the world.
Today, we are so far off the mark of humanity that we need a crash course to learn how to be careful.
One of the residuals of my experience in that arena is that I learned to be careful about swelling to anger, and I have never been prejudice. Frankie on the other hand, learned nothing from the experience. He not only continued on his path of bullying and prejudice, he also became a career criminal.
So many of us need to take a chill pill, as they say, and realize that Allah (God) put us all here for a reason. That reason is to have love and reverence for one another, and share the earth.
I really think that Firefighters have the right idea; despite many differences, Firefighters learn to have trust in each other, because at the end of the day the most important thing is for each of them to return home.
My parents worked like dogs to give my sisters and I a better life, and they taught us some very valuable lessons along the way, and at the crux of it was the mantra: be careful.
They allowed us to make mistakes and grow from them, they challenged us to see and take people as they are, not seeing color, gender, nor sexual preference.
If we would all learn to see each other in a better light, maybe we would have a better chance to take away the stigmas that could lead to so many people wanting to end their lives by their own hand. We would realize that it is OK to be different, it is OK to be quirky, it is OK to tease each other in fun, and most of all we would learn that we are all we've got.
I hope that today we go out into the world and smile at our neighbors, look up at the sun and be warm just like it. I challenge you to learn from your differences, and not throw a brick. Take each person as they come, and when a crisis arises, put up your words instead of your dukes, but remember, just be careful.
Remember, everyday in every way, you are worthy...