When I was growing up my parents would always remind my sister and me to treat others as we want to be treated, to honor our elders, and that if we didn’t have anything nice to say, not to say anything at all. As I got older, I realized what they were teaching us was called respect.
But what truly is respect? When I searched the web, hundreds if not thousands of various descriptions for respect came up. However, the underlying thread of each was that treating everyone and everything with care is respect.
I could not put my finger on why, but I had a nagging feeling that respect was a value that was fading away. Maybe it was the constant barrage of horrifying news stories. Maybe it was the political climate. Maybe it was the “new normal” post covid.
Then something happened this week.
My phone started blowing up with notifications from a social media platform that will remain nameless.
On one side of the discussions was a group of people who found, for various reasons, the shooting off of personal fireworks this week to be an issue. Why?
Veterans with PTSD
Trying to get children to sleep
Needing to get to sleep themselves
Perhaps the fireworks were illegal to own
It was not for one night but was going on, and it was assumed that it will continue on for multiple nights this week
On the other side of the discussions was a group of people who found, for various reasons, the shooting off of personal fireworks this week not to be an issue. Why?
It’s a celebration
People were being safe
It does not happen all the time
There are ways to avoid hearing or being stressed about the noises
There are ways to lessen the trauma to pets.
They are on vacation and having fun
They have always done it
In the middle, was a whole lot of hurt.
Accusations about who was and who was not an American
Assumptions about intent
Cruel hurtful statements charging one opinion more accurate or important than another
Blame without the willingness to hear solutions
And yet somehow we are surprised there are so many mass shootings. How can we expect anything different when neighbor is pitted against neighbor in something as simple as the celebration of an event that actually gave them their right to speak out?
I began to wonder. . .
Would these people actually share their thoughts with others if they were face to face with them?
Has social media given the drunk at the end of the bar a voice without the solace of the last call?
Has the ability to hide behind a keyboard caused society to become more disrespectful?
Long before our country was formed, Native Americans lived freely and in harmony with the animals. The animal world taught them how to live with the earth; in doing so, a connection formed between the animal world and the human one and they became one. In doing so, this engrained in Native Americans a respect for all life, even the animals. So much so that they have laws of existence that are based on animals to show that all human decisions have a greater impact on the world. One of those animals, the one that is most honored, is the bison.
Imagine standing on the Great Plains hundreds of years ago, surround by a sea of these majestic creatures. The appearance alone of the bison is one that commands, gives, and reminds us of respect. Its weight and powerful body help it to remain grounded. Its strong shoulders ensure strength and balance. Its large head stays firmly connected to who it is. It has the ability to charge through anything it chooses, yet it treats its surroundings with gentleness and humility.
The Native American people relied on the bison for so many daily necessities, including clothing, shelter, and food. The people felt that the bison showed deep respect for them as it gave its life to them and shared every part of its existence with them. The bison respected them and they respected the bison in return. Nothing of this creature ever went to waste, no animal ever gave them more, so no animal was more appreciated.
The bison live in a community, a herd. Each individual bison has and understands its place, yet it serves others for the greater good. By cooperatively living in a herd, a tribe, or a neighborhood what can be achieved is what is best overall for everyone, rather than what is only good for oneself. This idea was so important to the Native Americans that they considered themselves to be the caretakers of the herd. Before Europeans began hunting bison, their numbers hovered between 30-60 million. Today only about 15,000 live truly in the wild, 5,000 of those reside at Yellowstone National Park.
Imagine where we would be today, if the bison and the Native Americans did not respect each other and co-exist in harmony. Maybe there wouldn’t be any bison left today. Maybe there would not be people to guide our first settlers. Maybe there would not be a holiday to have fireworks at to argue over.
So next time you have an issue with someone or something, follow the advice of our majestic friends and be respectful. You may just realize there are better ways to resolve our differences other than lashing out at one another from the comfort of our living rooms. After all, if we have nothing else in common, we are all just people.
Despite us referring to, and singing about, what roams our country as Buffalo, they are actually Bison.
How do we know? 4 distinct ways . . .
Where they live. Bison are only found in North America and parts of Europe. Buffalo are found in South Asia and Africa.
What type of horns. Bison have short, sharp horns. Buffalo have arched horns that can grow up to 6 feet.
Their grooming style. Bison have beards. Buffalo do not have beards.
One hump or none. Bison have a large hump at their shoulders. Buffalo do not have any humps.