Get back to the basics: manners, equal treatment and sharing

This year, let's focus on the things that were important to us as children.

Published: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2004 at 12:21 a.m.

Nearly 19 years ago, we began celebrating King Week in Gainesville and Alachua County. Each year the Board of Directors of the Martin Lather King Jr., Commission of Florida, Inc., determines the theme for the week and what our focus for the upcoming year will be.

This year's theme, "Back to Basics," albeit a simple one, is something this community and nation should remember.

What is meant by "Back to Basics?"

First, what are some of the basics principles that we all learned while growing up? How about respect for each other (manners), do unto others as you would have them do unto you (equal treatment), and each one help one (sharing)? Sound familiar? What if we were to return to these basic principles of life? Imagine what changes may occur.

Many people today, and especially our young people, have forgotten what it means to have manners. Many of our young people have lost their life, or have become victims of bodily harm, just because they forgot to say "excuse me" while accidently stepping on someone's new Jordan footwear, or for spilling a drink on someone's new designer clothing. A simple "excuse me," or "I'm sorry" could have prevented such violence.

The question adults should ask themselves is: Are our children to blame for the violence they exhibit today? The honest answer is no.

Many of us are aware of the principles of nonviolent social change demonstrated by Dr. King and countless others. However, America for some reason glorifies violence, from our childhood days of playing "cowboys and Indians," (nobody wanted to be the Indians) and "cops and robbers" (everyone wanted to be the good guy).

Today it seems that everyone wants to be the bad guy. We allow violence into our homes by way of television. We spend millions of dollars at the movies to see violence, whether it's "Terminator" or "Bad Boys."

Our young people spend countless hours playing video games that promote violence and, yes, we buy them. We are now inundated with images of violence from around the world as it happens, compliments of our television networks and cable news networks.

Have we all forgotten one of the most basic biblical teachings of our youth: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Some of us can use a refresher course in this basic principle of life.

If we practiced this principle, we would probably see a reduction in our crime rate - particularly our juvenile crimes rate. Property crimes, like burglaries, grand theft and home invasions would decrease, mainly because we would understand that it's not right to break into someone's home or business and remove their possessions.

The true meaning of treating each other fairly would be realized. Not only would property crimes decrease, but complaints of unfair treatment in the work place, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination would be alleviated.

Of all the basic principles we were taught while growing up, the one that is most often forgotten is sharing with others or bearing each other's burdens. If we were to practice this principle each day, just imagine the problems we could solve. Would we have homelessness, poverty and hunger in America? If each one helped one, could we eradicate illiteracy in America?

"Back to Basics," as simple as it sounds, seems appropriate for this year's theme. Each of us should rededicate ourselves to the basic principles of respecting each other (displaying good manners), doing unto others as you would have them to do unto you (equal treatment) and each one helping one (sharing).

If we would return to the basic principles in life, then Dr. King's words of "If I can help someone along the way, then my living would not be vain," would have true meaning.

Rodney Long is an Alachua County commissioner and president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida, Inc.

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