By Mark Rockwell

I knew today was going to be a scorcher, the hottest day of an otherwise mild Oregon summer. So, I got ready quickly and headed out the door for my morning walk, knowing that as the temperature climbed my ambition would drop. And I figured it was better to get an early start, and not risk wimping out later in the day.

I stepped out the front door and headed east toward First Edition, a charming neighborhood a couple of miles away. There were only a small number of folks out walking and enjoying the cool morning air. As I rounded the corner onto F street, there were two individuals walking briskly in my direction. There was also a large garbage truck rumbling slowly down the street that pulled over and stopped.

It Was Such a Little Thing

I speculated the driver was waiting to talk to his supervisor, or perhaps he was going to swap out with another driver. But after the three of us had all passed, the driver turned his truck and started backing toward a nearby trash enclosure. That’s when I realized he’d been waiting for us to safely pass, so we wouldn’t be inconvenienced or endangered as he backed across our pathway.

I reflected on the respect the driver had demonstrated by waiting. And how that type of thoughtful regard is often missing in our culture. It struck me, it is the lack of respect, the opposite of which the three of us had just experienced, that foments anger in our society.

The Other Person

Perhaps more than any other quality, it is the regard a person has for themself and others that determines whether they are thoughtful and courteous. But more importantly, respect is the foundation of a person’s honesty, integrity, and commitment to being responsible. And it is an essential ingredient in maintaining an enduring social fabric.

Conversely, it is the absence of respect and civility which allows individuals to lie, steal, cheat, inflict personal injury, and treat other races and economic classes as inferior. Disrespect is more than boorish behavior. It is an indication of social decline.

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Broken Windows

The “broken windows theory” holds that visible signs of deterioration (broken windows, vandalism, graffiti) encourage further disorder including more serious crimes. In a similar manner, increasing disrespect has precipitated social unrest, which has escalated in some locations to rioting and looting.

As I got to thinking about the garbage truck driver and the broken window theory, I got to wondering what I could be doing better in my own life to demonstrate respect. Believing that if each of us did just a little better, together we can make the world, or at least our world, a much better place. Here is what I came up with for me:

  1. Learn to be a respectful listener
  2. Model the behavior I would like to see in others
  3. Take time to understand, appreciate, and respect backgrounds, cultures, and orientations I am not familiar with
  4. Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach to resolving conflicts
  5. Have difficult conversations in person, not electronically, remembering email and social media have no voice tone to convey meaning
  6. Remember, I am not always right, and others are not always wrong
  7. As trite as it may seem, always say “please” and “thank you”

Lastly, I need to get better about not letting good behavior go unnoticed and unappreciated.  Which reminds me, I need to send the driver’s company a thank you note.  

What are your thoughts, what would you add to my list?