In 1967, the late Aretha Franklin released a song which would become synonymous with her name, Respect. Since that time, the song has been used to communicate a message of respecting another person. When I listen to her sing that song, I cannot help but feel her own feelings in the lyrics which she was singing. For her, she was asking to be respected for being an extremely talented black female artist in a time when being black and being female seldom received any of the respect that either social group deserved. This is the song which came to my mind the other day while I was sitting in the coffee shop.

I had gone to my regular coffee shop to enjoy a latte while I did some reading and some planning for my writing. One of the frequent events which occur during my trips to the coffee shop is my observation of the surrounding people. This happens either as I am brainstorming ideas which leads me to look around myself or if there is a sound which draws my attention. On this particular day as I was observing, I became aware public respectfulness appears to have lessened.

What I mean by public respectfulness is the manner in which a person conducts him or herself around others. With the introduction of the mobile phone, more people carry on conversations in public areas than used to be the case. This convenience has not been accompanied by an agreed upon set of behavior standards. I have no problem with people talking on their phones in public areas, in fact, I am guilty of doing so. What I have a problem with is when those conversations become loud enough to interfere with the normal actions of others. Or when those conversations lead to holding up lines because the person is distracted with the phone in their hand and is unable to take care of what is required of them at the time.

Another disrespect which I often witness is in regard to attending events. I remember my parents always making sure that if we were attending a concert, a play, or some other culture event which required sitting for a period, I was instructed to use the restroom before we entered. The reason for my parent’s instructions was in case I needed to use the restroom in the middle of the event which would cause me to get up from my seat, walk in front of others, and interrupt their enjoyment of the event. Most events which were lengthy would place an intermission in the middle so that a person could take care of this and other needs without being a distraction. These days not only do children get up and exit at any point during an event but adults do it and the adults are usually much louder and more disruptive in the process.

The lack of public respect surfaces also in regard to parents providing oversight for their children. Having been a father of two boys, I understand that there are times when a child acts out in public. This is normal. However, my parents provided an example which I followed with my children, if acting out was the plan, then I was escorted out of the public area where a conversation would occur. Unfortunately, I witness too many parents who are either more concerned about continuing a conversation they are having with a friend or focused on something on their phone than they are being aware of what their child is doing and providing appropriate redirection if a child is causing a concern. I watched a mother sitting with one of her daughters while her other daughter was dancing around breakable items, picking them up, and playing with them. The mother looked at the child but did nothing to redirect the child except to say that her daughter probably should not do that. In a short amount of time, the young girl dropped a ceramic mug which shattered on the floor. An employee came to clean it up and reached the child faster than the mother who was seated only a couple feet away. I view this as being disrespectful of the business and the patrons who were in the business.

The respect of which Aretha Franklin sang is something which is taught at home. Parents, grandparents, adult relatives, and adults as a whole need to model respect for our children. We need to take a serious look at how we display public respect. I learned respect at home from my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and the friends of my parents. I also had the fortune of adults in my church, my teachers, and community members to teach me respect. I think we need more of this.

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