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On Being Respected

How does someone learn how to become a person people respect? Arguably, the best way to develop a deep understanding of this is through stories that depict characters that, as they mature, grow into individuals that have the set of characteristics that people highly respect. In the Cool Steve Stories, a coming-of-age trilogy of a boy growing up in Brooklyn, I have attempted to provide my readers with just this type of story.

A Hero Grows in Brooklyn

hero coverThe first novel of the trilogy, A Hero Grows in Brooklyn, can be downloaded for free on any e-book reader, iPad, or computer.  It is also available as a paperback book.

In the trilogy, the topic of respect initially arises when Steve is only five-years old. His Uncle Ricky has taken him to Yankee Stadium, and Mickey Mantle has just won the first game of a double header with a spectacular catch in center field.

Mickey

The story continues from here:

“Hey Steve,” says Ricky as he stretches his arms way above his head, “while we wait for them to get ready for the next game let’s take a walk. My legs are getting stiff.”

“Can we go way up there?” Steve asks pointing to the seats high above them.

“Let’s go see,” says Ricky.

In the crowded aisle between the dark green seats, slowly they make their way up to a covered cement walkway with hordes of fans on long lines seeking to buy peanuts, hot dogs, ice cream, beer, and soda. Uncle Ricky looks around to get reoriented.

“Let’s try this way, Steve.”

“Wow, Uncle Ricky, I never seen so many people!”

Baseball-Yankee-Stadium-outfieldThe crowd thins out along an upwardly sloping tunnel. Soon, they emerge into bright sunlight and Steve finds himself in the upper deck behind home plate. This view provides a bird’s-eye perspective. Looking down from the wall in front of the upper deck’s first row of seats, Steve’s mouth flies open, and he suddenly takes a step back. “I bet a guy could get pretty hurt if he fell from here!” he cries.

“Ya wanna find out,” Ricky responds mischievously. “Here. I’ll give ya a boost,” and as he says this he bends down, interlocks the fingers of his hands together and holds them by Steve’s feet.

Steve feigns anger, throwing some mock punches at his uncle while laughing.

Yankee 2As they begin the journey back to their seats, Steve notices the unique smell of stale beer and Cracker Jacks.

“So, Steve, you getting excited about starting kindergarten in the fall?”

“I hear they got some mean kids there.”

bully17“There are always a few kids trying to earn respect by pushing kids around.”

“Resect? What’s that mean?”

“Not resect, respect.”

“Yeah, re… respect, Uncle Ricky, what’s it mean?”

“Well, if ya like a guy then ya…” Ricky begins to say but then pauses. He was about to say, If you like a guy you respect him. But then he thinks about his older brother Mike, who happens to be Steve’s dad. Ricky realizes that he likes Mike, even loves him, but he doesn’t truly respect him. Then Ricky wonders to himself if you can dislike a guy and still respect him. Hmmm.

“Well?” says Steve.

“I guess I’ll tell ya what my dad used to say about respect. You’re a little young ta understand this yet but anyway, every now and then your nonno, in his heavy Italian accent, would say ta me and your dad when we were young, ‘Ricky, Mike, if ya wanna get respect ya gotta learn how ta use this-uh, wit’ this-uh, and wit’ this-uh,” and as Ricky imitates Steve’s grandfather saying these words he points first to his right arm’s biceps, then to his head, and then to his heart.

The little Yankee Stadium scene that I just described, only begins the process of encouraging people to start thinking about the nature of respect. Why Ricky doesn’t respect Steve’s dad, and how Steve, when he becomes a teenager, manages to become respected are answered by reading the rest of the trilogy. By following over the course of a few months the characters as they deal with specific situations that we can relate to, we find ourselves envisioning how we might handle similar situations. As psychologist Rollo May put it, these types of stories are the fibers with which a person weaves a coherent fabric of identity and meaning.

Other Ways to Learn About Respect

An alternative to stories for learning about respect, is to review a list that some people put together of the characteristics that they believe lead to respect.  One such list, for example, is wikiHow’s, which is titled “How to Be Respected.” Among the items listed is:

Being a Good Role ModelRespected 1

Present yourself well

Set an example for others

Make your own decisions

Don’t be overly materialistic

Don’t procrastinate

Respected 2Be a cultured person

Keep your language clean and respectable

Exude confidence

Be optimistic

Stick to your word

Excel at something

Respected 3Admit to your mistakes

Avoid getting overly intoxicated in public

Stick up for yourself when you need to

Respecting Others

Greet people in a proper and friendly manner

Never bully others or take advantage of their weaknesses

Respected 6Give everyone a chance

Be prepared to see other people’s side of the story

Don’t act like a know-it-all

Be discreet

Each item on this list comes with a few examples along with a picture illustrating the point that is being made. Although I believe that there are some essential characteristics left off the list, and many of the examples are too vague to readily put into practice, the items are worth thinking about.

I think the list can be usefully employed as part of a discussion on this topic, especially if those participating in the discussion are encouraged to tell a little story of their own depicting an incident in which someone they know acted in a way that illustrates the items on the list.

listOf course another way to learn the skills that lead to respect is to begin reading this blog, starting with the first post, and systematically going through each succeeding post at your own pace.  It’s free, and engaging in discussions can be done by posting comments in the “comment section” that appear at the bottom of each of the posts.

Conclusion

Regardless of how else you choose to learn about respect, the Cool Steve Stories is a great way to suppliment your learning. The process has elements of fun, sadness, frustration, excitement and humor.

To end today’s post, let’s take a little look at how five-year old Steve ended his day at Yankee Stadium.

Ed Sullivan

Ed Sullivan

After Steve’s mom, Marie, makes him take a shower, it’s time for both of them to watch the Ed Sullivan Show, a Sunday night tradition of theirs.

“Did it start yet?” asks Steve hurrying into the room wearing his pajamas, still dripping from his shower.

“Not yet,” says Marie as she turns the RCA dial to channel two. “Hmmm. That doesn’t look so good.” She adjusts the rabbit-ear antenna so she can get rid of the shadows that are interfering with the picture quality. “There,” she says, “that’s better. You need anything before the show starts?”

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll just come over here and sit by my handsome young man.” Together they settle in on their green sofa to enjoy the night’s variety acts.

Steve likes the juggling act. Not only does the guy get balls flying all around, but he also performs a smooth routine using cigar boxes that dance in the air.

During a commercial, as Marie goes into the kitchen to get something to nibble on, Steve gets two pink rubber balls and a baseball and tries to juggle. As he tosses one ball up and then the second, he observes that he is already too late to catch the first because it is about to hit the floor. He tries again and again.

Marie comes back into the living room with a large bowl. The aroma of fresh buttered popcorn enters Steve’s nostrils. He puts the balls down, goes over to the sofa, snuggles with his mom, and together they munch away on the soft, fluffy treat.

“Steve, what was all that commotion I heard in here while I was making the popcorn?”

“I was trying ta juggle, Mom. It’s kinda hard. I’m gonna practice a little everyday till I get it.”

The show drifts by. Marie recalls the quarrel she had with Mike before he left for the bar. He had promised to defrost the refrigerator today, and it hadn’t gotten done. Oh, if this had been the only unfulfilled promise of Mike’s she would have said nothing, nothing at all. But time and time again!

Aching memory after aching memory drift through her thoughts as Dean Martin croons his way through “That’s Amore.” Then Marie looks over to her son. She sees the golden highlights of his dark brown hair, his beautiful face, his sweet lips, the sparkle in his eyes… and as she gazes at him waves and waves of joy flow through her.

The show comes to an end. Steve begins to yawn. It’s been a long day.

“Come on, Steve, it’s time to go to bed,” says Marie.

When they get to Steve’s bedroom, Marie tucks Steve in with his teddy bear. “I love you, Steve,” she says as she leans over and kisses him on his forehead.

“I love ya too, Mom.”

Snuggling with his teddy bear, Steve closes his eyes. His mind drifts here and there. After awhile, he begins to dream of one day becoming the next great Yankee centerfielder.

——————————-

Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on.  This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence.  To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.

 

 

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About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

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