A few weeks ago, I saw a young boy riding his bike in the street at a busy intersection. When he rode slowly by, I said, "Excuse me, young man -- be careful, this is a busy intersection; maybe you should ride on the sidewalk." He was no bigger than a third grader -- how he responded was quite disturbing to say the least.
He yelled, "F***k you, lady!" I winced at his words. As I looked on with horror as he weaved in and out of traffic, an old idiom came to mind that I used to hear old folks say: "this world is going to hell in a handbasket."
Back in the day, if I had known that young boy's mom or dad and approached them, the parent would have apologized profusely with shameful chagrin and it would have been appreciated. The child would be made to apologize, maybe have had his mouth washed out with soap, write standards and an apology note, and end up with a sore bottom. He would think twice before saying the "F" word again.
Sadly, in today's society, if I had known where he lived I would have had to think twice about whether to approach this boy's parent (s). I would have needed a police escort in fear of being cursed out, possibly assaulted, or shot. I am just keeping it real. We may have advanced greatly in technology, but in terms of basic respect for one another, something's gravely amiss.
What does this say about our society when well-mannered children and teenagers stand out amongst their peers?
Way back when, I was stopped once by an adult and asked if I were Charlie and Annie Ware's child. That was common in the 60s, even if you were not in trouble. "Are you so-and-so's child?" I answered the woman politely, "Yes, ma'am." It did not matter that I had never seen this woman before. The fact that I was not where I had permission to go and she had picked up on this, plus, the fact that she had known my parents was enough for me to want to die right then and there.
My parents were my parents, not my friends. My friends were my friends. I never got that twisted.
The majority of my friends were raised in two-parent homes and church was a saving grace. There was an unspoken bond in which other parents in my town of Havre de Grace, Maryland, looked out for one another's children. It was not unusual for your principal, pastor, or a teacher to stop by and pay a surprise visit to your home to help keep your children on a straight and narrow path.
The mystery woman told me to head home, and I did. I never, ever, would have yelled, "Go fly a kite, lady" or worse, "F**k, you, lady." If I had, I'd be writing this blog in Braille.
I walked at such a rapid pace to get home that day that I had broken my mom's back over and over again -- I never looked down for any cracks in the sidewalk (old adage: step on a crack, break your mama's back). We did not have a phone at the time, but as soon as I opened the front door, they knew: How?
Surprisingly, my mom's back held up pretty well when I was punished. Let's just say, "time out" was not part of the vernacular in the 1960s. Life lessons were taught in our home every day. My siblings and I were corrected on the spot for displaying any type of bad behavior or bad manners toward each other or outside of our home.
Respect started at home. Proverbs 13:24, "spare the rod, spoil the child," was instituted in our home. My parents did not take up for us when we were wrong or make excuses for our wrongdoings. The worst punishment, ever, was to not be able to go outside and play.
Oh, do you remember those days when one of your friends knocked on the door -- you could have heard a pin drop, as you listened to how your parent explained in detail why you were on punishment, which embarrassed you even more.
As you watched your friends having fun, I remembered being told to "close the curtains, get away from that window, and go to your room." The window in my bedroom faced the backyard. Now, that was cruel and unusual punishment.
Incorrigible kids in my town who had contracted the Dennis the Menace Syndrome were often sent to reformatory school. My friends and I may have been mischievous and had an attitude when we were not around our parents, but we cleaned up good when in front of an authoritative figure; Yes or No or Yes, ma'am or No, sir when speaking to an adult. It was disrespectful to say Yeah, Huh, or What to your parents and adults.
Calling an adult by their first name was never heard of, even if an adult went by a sobriquet; Cookie, Mouse, or Magic Man -- it was "Hi, Miss Cookie, Miss Mouse, or Mr. Magic Man," etc. I do not like children to refer to me by my first name, especially when the introduction is by an adult.
I have a soft spot for our troubled youth and have volunteered in juvenile detention centers in every city where I have lived. I feel that the lack of consequences for bad behavior is a dangerous beginning. Chances are I will never see that young boy again. But I hope and pray that someone will take the time to guide him in the right direction. I certainly plan on continuing to be part of the solution that could very well keep our world from going to hell in a handbasket.