I thought about the movie Forest Gump last night as I looked over responses to my blog. No doubt you remember the line: “ Mama always said life was life a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Perhaps it was a lack of insight on my part, but I was surprised that 74% of the folks who selected “like” for the blog also opted to comment. 100% of those commenting were in unison. They routinely use the terms “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am”.
According to responses, the lessons learned as children regarding the need to be respectful and use “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’am” have served them well. It became patterned behavior permanently woven into the fabric of their lives. They passed the life lessons on to their children and have stayed the course. Always the terms carry with them a sense of respectfulness. At no time are they ever shared with the intent of being offensive.
Interestingly Coach Carter, the no-nonsense head coach of the Richmond High School boys’ basketball team from 1997-2002, is author of a book identifying basic building blocks for winning in life. His fundamental belief is that you have to start with respect for others, your community, and your environment before you can attain personal or professional goals. His book deals with Accountability… Overcoming adversity…Taking charge of your life… Learning how to succeed when others expect you to fail. The name of the book is Yes Ma’am, No Sir: The 12 Essential Steps for Success in Life. I sense that all those responding to the blog from yesterday could write the same kind of book.
I met a young pastor yesterday who stopped by the children’s home for a tour. One of the staff introduced us and added that I was the “President” of the organization. I assured him that the title along with $1.25 will get you a cup of coffee where I buy mine. We visited for a few minutes. As he was leaving, his parting words were: “It was nice to meet you sir.” I smiled and thanked him for his kindness.
I get it. I really get it. I, too, grew up with those same values and lifestyle. I attempt to always be respectful when I’m talking with others. While I’ve never been personally offended by the term “sir”, I can’t truthfully say that at times, I sense that it adds an element of distance or exclusion (I know, you think I’m weird).
I really like the concept of a level playing field. Maybe I just want to be one of the guys. Across the years, because of my church affiliation, some folks have addressed me as Rev. Forrester. Whenever I hear that, I always attempt to provide gentle redirection. I always suggest that the simply call me “Don”. It is a better fit for me.
After reviewing comments last night, I did an Internet search and found that the consensus of my blog may not be the consensus of the country. At best, it is a divided opinion. I was surprised to find that fifteen year’s ago one state led the way in passing a “Yes ma’am law”. The following is from the Los Angeles Times:
“Legislators Debate Value of ‘Yes Ma’am’ Laws
Courtesy: Several states reject laws to mandate respectful behavior to schoolteachers. But while some call them fluff, others say they’re a step in the right direction.
June 04, 2000|ROBERT TANNER | ASSOCIATED PRESS
AIKEN, S.C. — For teacher Bonnie Pattison, it’s a simple equation. Courtesy equals respect. “Yes, ma’am” equals decency. And, she hopes, respect and decency add up to a school where children learn not only math but manners and morals.
In her classroom and throughout East Aiken Elementary, students say “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am.” They learn about forgiveness and generosity. Children are encouraged to hold the doors for others.
“It’s the right thing to do. It shows you’re a gentleman and a lady,” Pattison says. “It can’t not work.”
The idea, made law in Louisiana last year, caught on briefly with legislators across the nation, from Mississippi to Minnesota. Governors in Alabama and South Carolina pushed “yes, ma’am” laws as the country reeled from violence at Colorado’s Columbine High and other schools.
Ultimately, lawmakers said no, though debate continues in North Carolina and South Carolina. Some warned of Big Brother meddling in family business. Others complained it was a superficial response to deep societal problems”.
I agree with Bonnie Pattison, the school teacher in Aiken S.C., that courtesy and respect are fundamental values that need to be embraced. They can’t be legislated. They have to be taught in the home and all the other places where the lives of children intersect with others.
All My Best!