“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”
— Anne Lamott
It would seem as if my life and those of my friends and family is an open book. My absolute favorite quote — and the header on most all of my social media accounts — serves as much as a fair warning as a mantra: “I am a writer. Anything you do or say could end up in print.”
My subject matter, my bread-and-butter, so-to-speak, tends to be centered on life in rural middle America. You certainly don’t come here to read what it is like to traverse the mean streets of New York City or how to make it in LA.
I’m assuming you read me because I encapsulate slices of what I’m told is real life. At least real life as lived by clumsy women who live in old houses with very nice and funny people.
Having any kind of audience can give you a certain power, but I am not here to embarrass anyone but me.
Sure, I’ve had some missteps over the years. I once wrote about one of my children’s athletic coaches in a style I thought was tongue-in-cheek. I was mistaken. Feelings were hurt. I apologized because I was wrong. I was very wrong. Let me say one more time for the record, I was wrong.
I was also called on the carpet by an elementary school principal for writing humorously about a third-grade science project. I will not apologize for that one because it was hilarious. I was not wrong. I’m able to apologize, but when I know I’m right, I dig in — hard.
Since I have become somewhat of a reporter on small-town living and heartland American values, I do feel there is a little something I need to bring to the attention of my fellow citizens: We see you.
I understand that sometimes we are just going about our busy days. We are sometimes cranky, exasperated, or rushed. I get it.
Please note, however, that your attitudes, behaviors, and comments are seen, heard and relayed to others.
The good thing about small-town living is that everyone knows you. The bad thing about small-town living is that everyone knows you. The same village that raised my children and the children of my peers watches us as well.
Yet some older folks (who really should behave better) don’t think that this applies to them. Let me assure you, cranky friends, that you are mistaken.
We all share the streets and stores of our corners of the world. We share the services and are waited on by the same fine folks. The majority of these employees are not lazy, entitled or rude. They show up and do what they’re supposed to do.
Yet a few of my fellow adults (and I use the term loosely) seem to be taking advantage of that.
Granted, it is not my place to chastise everyone who may have had a bad day. It is, however, my privilege to give you this gentle warning.
When you are the local pastor who refuses to wait to be seated in a local restaurant and instead marches past the head of the line and seat yourself because “you are a very busy man” — people notice.
I don’t claim to know “what would Jesus do” with the same scholarly attention that you’ve certainly given to the matter. I do, however, assume he wouldn’t brush past a group of elderly ladies to be first in line for chicken fingers. You made your message from the pulpit ring a little hollow if you don’t walk the walk when in the streets.
When you are a local business person who is repeatedly snappy and rude at the post office, you might want to take a deep breath — or a nap. Let me assure you that the postmistress doesn’t set the rates. The federal government does. Perhaps next time you want to throw a hissy fit, you should direct it at them?
I am just looking out for you. If word gets out about your frequent outbursts, it doesn’t matter how pretty your product if your attitude is ugly.
We all have our moods, but I think a good rule of thumb is to treat every interaction as if the person you are speaking to might be a neighbor or a friend of a friend.
At the very least, if we can’t be nice, we can at least be quiet.
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