President Gerald Ford died the day after Christmas in 2006. I was home with viral laryngitis the week of his funeral services. I had been told to rest, not talk and stay away from other people because I was contagious — and so I watched all of it.
A verse from the Psalms I'd heard often as a child was read by President Ford's priest: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.“ Psalm 19:14.
I listened to the eulogies. Regardless of their politics and how they might have rated him as president, the words used over and over to describe him was that he was forgiving, inclusive and someone who reached out in friendship, not only to people like himself, but to others who were not.
I wrote, “I remember being struck by the awareness of how divisive we as human beings have become. Before we are white or people of color, homosexual or heterosexual, young or old, Democrat or Republican, Episcopalian, Southern Baptist, evangelical, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, we are first of all members of the human race.”
Now seven years later, I think again of that time and the divisiveness seems to be growing bigger — and uglier.
I work with couples who've forgotten how to be kind and respectful when disagreeing. I listen to many of our elected officials on both sides and it seems they too have forgotten how to be kind and respectful when disagreeing.
And who among us has not at some time put someone else down trying to elevate our own importance? All of us would do well to remember the words of the psalmist.
Whether it is defending our point of view, stating our opinion, marching in protest or debating the issues we deem important, what keeps us from using good manners?
Our children are watching. How different their future might be if we were teaching them that the relationships we have with one another are far more important than a need to prove we are right.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.