On St. Patrick’s Day, Page and Palette Bookstore presented a lunchtime lecture with Jan-Philipp Sendker, bestselling author of “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.” As Sendker addressed the large crowd at the Fairhope Public Library, he told of his time spent in Burma. One story was related to a sign he saw hanging on the wall of an Internet café, which simply read, “Respect Yourself.” Jan-Philipp asked a local man about the meaning of the sign and was told it hung there to remind patrons not to visit “questionable” web sites.
Respecting yourself isn’t the same as that all-American attitude of, “I’m wonderful,” but instead, respecting yourself means you understand the precious value of your life and want to live with honor and dignity. When you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and know you’ve done your best and caused no harm to others or yourself, then you can respect yourself.
Exemplifying a life of respect, University of Alabama swim team member John Servati recently made the honorable and heartbreaking choice to first help his girlfriend escape a collapsing wall, which then eventually fell and ended his life. Taking the path of respectfulness isn’t always the easiest journey.
The difficult large choices are made easier when we’ve always lived a life of respect and have learned from making smaller decisions all along.
An older girl I admired in high school was walking with me across campus one day when she spotted a candy wrapper someone else had thrown on the ground. She continued our conversation, but took a few steps out of her way to retrieve the sticky paper, then kept walking until we passed a trashcan where she deposited it.
“Eew! That was someone else’s mess!” I commented. This girl, who was wise beyond her years replied, “Yes, but it would bother me if I left it there.” She wasn’t angry that the other person had littered, but rather concerned about how she would feel about herself if she had done nothing. She was respecting herself.
I’m guessing John Servati was also the kind of person who had long practiced respectfulness by starting with little things, like picking up other people’s trash.
Respect yourself by eating healthy foods. Respect yourself by getting enough sleep. Respect yourself by dressing appropriately, learning new things, flossing, applying sunscreen, being prompt and keeping your word. Respect yourself by choosing good friends, keeping your car well maintained and showing kindness to those in need. (And don’t forget that you gain great amounts of respect when you call your mother!)
The sign in the tiny Internet café in Burma was not there to just protect innocent bystanders of tawdry images on the computer. It was also there because the Burmese culture expects its citizens to recognize the valuable significance and worth of their own lives.
People come and go, but you have to live with yourself forever.
Remember graduates, you are intricately formed and finely tuned creations that God placed here for a purpose. You deserve respect, and it should start from within. Of all the things in life you will learn, one of the major lessons is this: other people will treat you with the same amount of respect you show yourself.