I’m sorry. Two words that right many wrongs. Why is it so hard for some folks to understand the power of this phrase? Starting in kindergarten we teach children to use sweet words like “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” We see them posted on classroom walls, role play situations using them to thwart anti-social behavior like bullying, and make sure every child understands what respect and respectful behavior means.
Why, then, does all that teaching go out the window as folks get older and put their own needs and wants ahead of everyone else’s, ending in hurt feelings and miserable communication.
Watching the Republican candidates duke it out with each other and criticize much of what President Obama does and says, makes me shake my head in stupefaction. I have to believe they had teachers who attempted to teach them respectful behavior, and to say they were sorry if they hurt someone’s feelings, even if unintended.
What happened? If you add the forgiveness factor of the Christian faith into the mix, then saying you are sorry about causing hurt to others should be a given.
My rant today involves the furor over President Obama’s apology to the people of Afghanistan when copies of their beloved Quran were inadvertently burned by U.S. forces stationed there. Of course he should apologize, by any measure, in trying to right this wrong. Emotions are running so high that Americans serving in this mostly Muslim country can be at risk. If an apology can defuse the situation, aside from being the right thing to do, then we should be proud that our president took a forceful, proactive approach. What has me shaking my head is the stance of Republican presidential hopefuls, Santorum, Gingrich and Romney. Santorum’s statement that an apology wasn’t necessary because the act was not intentional makes me question this candidate’s ability to understand other cultures, and to be a leader in our global environment. Mit Romney’s view that an apology “sticks in the throats of many Americans” because of how many have died trying to help the Afghans is short sighted. It certainly doesn’t stick in my throat, quite the contrary. Sorry, Gov. Romney, please speak only for yourself. No doubt Ron Paul would say we shouldn’t be there in the first place, and in that case, there would be no problem.
How sad that our leader wannabees have forgotten their kindergarten lessons in civility. If we cannot look up to them for compassion and understanding, what hope is there for a more civil, effective congress. At least we have had good role modeling for the past three years. I, for one, am proud of President Obama’s messages of tolerance, understanding, compromise and getting along.
It’s not only in the economy that we experience the concept of “trickle down”. Civility, or lack of it, also trickles down - in state and national governments, in businesses and in families. In my own extended family I have just learned of an amazing turnaround between a father and his son because of the words ”I’m sorry.” Years of hurt and misunderstanding were forgotten in a hug and protestations of love following the apology.
What makes the words come so easily to one set of lips but so difficult to another’s? Maybe it’s time for everyone to go back in time to kindergarten. Perhaps the quickest and most effective way to do that is to re-read the poem below by Robert Fulghum. It is my sincerest hope that you take his words to heart and apply them to your life.
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
“All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. Clean up your own mess.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”