The Human Connection is the Foundation of Respect

(Photo: James Cridland)

One of the games I play to keep myself amused during trips is to make up stories in my head about the people I see walking by in airports or other public places. I give them names, try to guess at their destinations, and the reasons for their travel.

That’s Gladys Simpson. She’s a 48 year old traveling photographer, mother of two boys (Delwin and Delbert), on her way to an assignment to shoot the elusive Andean Snow Turtle. Her husband, Roland, is an HVAC technician and worked overtime so she could afford the new photo rig in her bag. It’s her first assignment after raising her family and now she’s pursuing her passion in a second career.

Sometimes the stories are a little silly like that, and sometimes the faces I see inspire a much more somber story.

He’s forgotten his real name because no one calls him by it anymore. Everyone just calls him “Buddy” as he pushes his shopping cart full of odds and ends around. “Buddy” mumbles to himself as he walks down the street looking for a place to rest before he’s forced to move again. In between random thoughts about a Parcheesi game he played as a kid, and trying to remember the color of his socks, he thinks to himself that he hopes that nice policeman comes by tonight. He feels safer when the policeman stands nearby. The street bullies don’t bother him when the cops are there and he can relax. Blue! His socks are blue!

Humans Need Each Other

Why did I take you down this little side trip? Because, humanity. We need a lot more of it.

The theme of this month’s posts is “Respect”, but a collision of religious, societal, and current events caused me to shift a bit this week. First, there’s the once in several decades overlap of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. Valentine’s Day is an invitation to erotic love and the second is a call to filial love and repentance. Then there’s the shooting in Florida that happened today. “Tragedy” seems to small a word to encompass the hell that dozens of families are experiencing tonight. There ought to be stronger words.

What in the world do all these thing have to do with each other? The answer is human connection and love for one another. The beauty of erotic love can be twisted when we objectify others. Religion becomes a social club if we don’t connect with the Divine and our faith community. Disturbed people harm others when they’re left on their own to fester. Teams, companies, and families fall apart when the members don’t invest in the people around them.

Be Deliberate, Give Them a Chance

We pass by others every day and don’t look at their faces. Each one of them is just like you and me: they have their own stories complete with triumph and tragedy. Some need more help than others, some are more successful than others, but each one is a singularly unique creation worthy of respect and yes, love. We use our words on social media to bludgeon and wound rather than to seek understanding. There is a way out, though.

When I was in the Air Force, I always accepted the people that no one else wanted. Most of the time all those people needed was someone to believe in them and give them a chance to succeed. Of course not everyone succeeded–people have different skills and sometimes their vices overwhelm their virtues–but I had about an 80% success rate with the “misfits” others didn’t want. The core truth, though, is that regardless of ability or success, each person deserves to be respected.

Don’t Walk By

Malcolm Forbes once said that he could judge the character of a man by the way he treated those who could do nothing for him, or to him. A well-known CEO always interviews potential hires at a restaurant to see how they treat the waitstaff. Human connection matters. If we walk by other people heedless of their humanity as if they’re objects to be navigated around, we surrender a little bit of what makes us human. We certainly don’t have to engage with everyone around us, but we should notice and respect their humanity.

After a tragedy like what happened in Florida today, people often make “I knew something wasn’t right” comments. Right now, a lot of people are asking, “why?” How many of us notice the homeless people we pass on the street to get our coffee? When was the last time we asked our co-workers about their families, or showed genuine concern when it was obvious they weren’t feeling well or were distraught about something? It’s a question we need to ask ourselves daily. We don’t have to be saints, but we ought to try.

Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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