Lawrence Mathews, Chief Financial Officer at the Institute for Population Health, recalls his mother’s lessons on mutual respect.
By Lawrence Mathews
What an awesome lady my mom was. As a stay-at-home mom, she was always there for the family. With six children came a tremendous responsibility of making sure that we stayed out of trouble. Mom was there for disciplining and advising.
One lesson she taught me that I would never forget is about respecting and treating others as I want to be treated. This is such a powerful lesson that it still comes into play today.
The first time I can remember her telling me this was when I was in elementary school—fifth or sixth grade—and I was playing outside with my friends after school. We played in the parking lot next to our home. A new kid who had just moved to our neighborhood wanted to join our softball game. It was really tough for us to accept anyone new to our already established group; we simply did not want to be inclusive. He came up to us and asked if he could play. We replied that we were in the middle of the game. On this particular day, the game did not end until the new kid got frustrated and went home.
Mom was sitting on the porch watching what was transpiring between my friends, myself and this new kid. When I came in from outside, the lesson began.
Mom would always pose a question starting with, “How would you feel if…” As soon as I walked into the house, she sat me down and said, “I was watching you and your friends play. Who was that new boy?” I told her that he was from down the street, hoping this was not going to lead to a whipping. She said, “Why did you guys not let him join the game?”
By this age, I had already learned another lesson earlier in my life, which was not to tell a lie to my parents, so I told Mom that we did not know him. Her next statement really surprised me. She said something like, “How can you get to know him if you shut him out?” And then here it came, the old “how would you feel if” question: “How would you feel if you were him?” My response was that I would feel hurt. Mom concluded this lesson by stating, “Always treat others the way you would want to be treated”.
This rule comes from the Bible, Matthew 7:12 (New Revised Standard Version of the Harper Collins Study Bible). “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you,” and it is referred to as the Golden Rule. It can also be found in the early contributions of Confucianism (551-479BC). This concept appears prominently in many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. My Mom continually reminded me of this rule.
Now, let’s fast forward to my discharge from the Army and a gathering I attended at my parent’s home in Flint, Michigan. My Dad let a guest manage the barbecue, and the guest burned the meat up. My brother and I went into the house and started mocking the man and his unique mannerisms. My mother was in the house preparing another dish, and she immediately shouted, “I did not raise any snobs.” My brother and I became silent. Then she said it again very emphatically, “I did not raise any snobs”.
Ever since that day, I have kept this lesson in mind. It covers so many things I am involved in, from things I do with my friends to greeting people at a meeting. I treat everyone as I want to be treated. Now, I trust you will benefit from my lesson.
Lawrence Mathews is Chief Financial Officer at the Institute for Population Health. He was featured in Issue No. 8 of Forefront magazine.
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what a awesome mother!