Thursday, February 12, 2009

Small sustainability

Why do you put up with that?

I recently had a conversation with another PCV that asked, "why do you put up with that?" in reference to an individual that has not exactly been treating me with a ton of respect. My answer, "Because I believe in people". There was no hesitation in my voice, no second thought, no awkward pause of unknowing; just an immediate answer that I believe sums up my faith in humanity.

A fair number of people in my own life have given me the same respect when I did not deserve it. There have been times where I was the one giving less than appropriate respect to another person and for some strange reason this person continued to give me their love and respect in return. Recently, a student and I were discussing respect. He was mentioning that there was another boy his age that continued to disrespect him. He said with certainty, "If he does not respect me, then why should I respect him, Miss?" At first, I was surprised at how repulsed I was at this question. However, after thinking about it for a couple of minutes I realized how important this is to understanding other cultures in terms of understanding respect between persons. Maybe not only in understanding cultures but also in understanding individuals.

I used myself as an example to answer this student's question. I responded to him, "Well, take this class for instance. The students come into this class, you along with the rest of them, to learn. At times, a few of you will be disruptive in class and not complete their work. This is being disrespectful to both myself and the rest of the students who are working. Does that mean that because you were being disrespectful to us, that we should not respect you in return?" What do you think his answer was? ", I suppose not. I want you to respect me. And I do respect you, sometimes, I just have trouble concentrating." I smiled when he said this because he understood what I was trying to get at. Two things struck me out of this conversation:

1. Just because it appears someone does not respect you, does not mean that it is actually true. Sometimes the individuals have their own personal issues that are causing them to be selfish in their own actions and thus, they are "blindfolded" from others at times.

2. Just because someone else does not immediately give you their respect does not mean that they do not deserve it in return. Depending on your level of faith, God's will is for us to love unconditionally. I do not usually write in terms of what religion implies on us, but for this sake, I am a strong believer. If you give another person love and respect, in spite of them deserving it, they may just turn around and give another person that same love and respect that you gave to them. It's extremely hard sometimes, don't get me wrong, but there is nothing more essential to human development work than to having faith in other people unconditionally.

I have been pleasantly surprised to see the attitude of this particular student change overtime. Despite his spontaneous and short spurts of ADD, generally, he is a great kid and an intelligent student when he puts his mind to it. Not to mention a worthy athlete and artist. Now, all that is needed is his own recognition of his abilities and then I have managed to affect one person in my work; as small as it is. Small sustainability is perhaps the most important.