1 DFABW – Respect

Dear Rick,

I miss you so often. If you were still here, we would see a lot more of each other because I’ve moved home now.

Almost every time we swim at K&M’s, I remember when you taught us to swim by throwing us in–“sink or swim” were your initial instructions. You were just the big brother helping out our single mom. She didn’t want any of us to drown. You accomplished your mission; we never did.  I am also regularly reminded of your smile and your attentive listening because I see them copy-pasted in our younger brother.

Did I ever tell you how when you and Paula sent me the number 7 for my seventh birthday I used to think it was an F? Why did you send me an F from Germany, I wondered? Maybe you were in the army in France instead, I figured. (Did I also tell you that when I  finally figured it out, I started crossing my 7’s? And I don’t think I told you I have saved that little 7 for almost 60 years.)

When I pulled up stakes and moved across the country, I remember the offer of a plane ticket back if ever I needed it. I never needed it because I married that guy, and I have the sweet memory of you walking me down the aisle on my wedding day–being the dad I hadn’t had for decades.

I enjoy every day of my life these days because you were a role model of a life well-lived. When you were diagnosed with heart disease as a young man, and having had a father who died of a heart attack at 43, you knew every year after 43 was a bonus. Your last 26 years were full of health, family, fun, and living in gratitude. Thank you for the legacy.

I love you so much,



During each day in the months of August and September, I am responding to a different word from Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Today’s word is Respect. A small group of people wanting to make the world a better place are reading and responding together. Join us! Visit Common Threads: Patchwork Prose and Verse by Kim Haynes Johnson for more information.


Spiritual Journey Thursday – Respect

Thank you, Linda, for hosting this Spiritual Journey Thursday today. I saw the word respect on the prompt calendar, and it was on my mind when I saw this recent post by Carlos Whittaker, introducing himself to his new followers:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit)

He explains about his Instagram account, that it is a place of hope, yet it’s not a “feel good” account. He gave this advice for his followers when they interact with each other over a hard topic:

“just show up here with this phrase inked on your soul…
Don’t stand on issues…
Walk with people…”

I have been thinking of these words all week because I see some friends and family traveling down paths of conspiracy theories. How can I walk with them respectfully? How can you believe such foolishness? I want to shout. Sometimes the seemingly-crazy ideas are all tied up in religion and God-belief too, so that is troubling and confusing.

I wrote a poem called a double golden shovel, inspired first by Linda and a “clunker line” poem she wrote with one of my lines and this recent post by Kim Johnson. I wrote the following poem as advice to myself. I find it natural to do one of two things when people have ideas I don’t respect:

  1. I become impatient with and disrespectful of the person.
  2. I just walk away and ignore them and their bad ideas.

But as Carlos suggests, there is another way — “with this phrase inked on your soul…Don’t stand on issues…Walk with people…”

Respect Advise to Me

Don’t expect that respect comes easily. With
stand the temptation to blame this
on others who “get tired, keep on tryin'” (to borrow a phrase).
Issues of  r-e-s-p-e-c-t  aren’t solved by getting beliefs inked.
Walk in the footsteps of others. Be fully on
with empathy. Think of all people, not only your
people. Open wide the part that may reach others–your home soul.

Then after I read the two quotes together at the beginning and end of these lines, they seemed backwards. I would have preferred to have them the other way around, so I tried again. It was an interesting exercise, with very different possibilities for where the poem could go. There are also some difficult pairs when doing a double golden shovel, with word couplings like “Don’t this.” However, it was time well-spent getting me thinking about how to respect those I desperately disagree with.

Respect Advise to Me, Take 2

With new urgency I listen. Don’t
this-and-that and what-about to justify your stand.
Phrase of respect emblazoned on
inked chest doesn’t fix hatred issues.
On empathetic legs of grace I will walk
your road of pain and humanity. In peace, with
soul-searing hope, I will touch the hearts of people.