How much of your life is legitimately owed to your spouse, your children, your church, your boss and your country? In a day and time when we are urged to protect our 'space,' watch our boundaries, just say no and never feel guilt, isn't it time to look at whether we have carried all this self-centeredness too far? We hear a lot of psychobabble. At times it seems relentless. After a while one has to stop and ask a few questions. Is all this self-obsession necessary? Good for us? Is it even nice? I don't think so. Pendulums swing. I'm sure there was a time when people carried courtesy and selflessness too far.
I remember my mother always gave my father one chicken breast and my brother got the other. She liked drumsticks. My sister and I grew up thinking chickens only had wings.
Worse, we got the message the only thing girls deserved were backs and wings. I never did that to my children. They might not have had a chicken breast every time but they sure did sometimes. Today it is considered 'healthy' to speak your mind and not take any guff off anyone. We're encouraged to demand our way in almost every situation.
Many employer/employee relationships have become adversarial and wary. Waiters and waitresses have become whipping posts. People who work in the public sector can testify how high the hostility barometer has soared.
Why have we allowed this? People have feelings. By and large they are not out to 'get us.' Waiters and waitresses are not to blame if food is poorly prepared or even if people have to wait fifteen minutes to be seated.
Grocery checkers are not responsible for high prices and store clerks aren't culpable if the store is out of product. But you would might not think that watching how these people are treated by the public. What about all the road rage? Is it simply another by-product of our ever expanding boundaries, another caustic arrow aimed at society? How long before all of us throw up our hands and say, "Enough is enough." No one has the right to indulge their own ego when it means tromping on the feelings or rights of another. Not without provocation or motive.
Yes, I DID just say that. Nasty hostile responses are just plain hateful and rude. We used to know that as a society.
Before the 'experts' explained, "It really IS all about me." No one expects us to let people walk on us, take advantage of our good nature, or abuse us in any other way. But verbally assaulting someone else is not the answer. We've all heard the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
" Is that premise difficult to understand? Let's take one more look at the original question: How much do you legitimately owe to your spouse, your children, your church, your boss and your country? We give a lot and we do so because we love people, because we believe in causes or even the company we work for. We shouldn't give until we hurt, as in lose sleep, go hungry, or collapse from exhaustion. But we should give when we feel invested in a project, when we want the very best for someone or even when we are willing to lay down our life for national defense. We should never snap, snarl, or glare at people when we are being served.
It is all right to say (in a friendly tone of voice), "This isn't what I ordered." "This fork is dirty." Cut people as much slack as you want them to cut you. It is possible to turn this hostile society around and rediscover the pleasure of friendly encounters with strangers. Dining out should leave us smiling.
Let's forget our 'space' for a while. It's all the richer for the people who are sharing it with us. Ask any widow who sits alone every night.
Ask parents who have lost a child. The next time you are in a situation where service is slow or flawed or sub-standard in any way, relax. Smile at the person you are dealing with.
Give them a chance to make it right. So what if your boundary gets crossed? You will make a friend, you will help someone else get through a tough day and you will feel oddly peaceful when it's over.
Beverly Vines-Haines has published newspaper feature stories, magazine columns and several novels. She ghostwrites for celebs and people on lecture circuits. Managing Treasure Leaf Publishing, she primarily writes for http://www.themustardtree.net.