Thursday, May 25, 2017

Always Stay Humble and Kind!

Whenever the world seems to have lost all respect, and turning on the news gives me that feeling in the first 30 seconds, I try to reflect on things I learned when I was very young.  Respect comes in many forms, and though we’d all like to ‘fix’ the world every time we see political and social principles denigrated, I always remember something I heard my mother say when I was growing up.  She was talking to my Uncle Henry at the time.  He was complaining loudly about the state of the world (back in the 1970’s!) and that my parents weren’t helping the situation by isolating themselves and tying themselves down with six kids.

A little background here…my parents had six children, of which I was the oldest.  Suffice to say, they had their hands full.  My Dad worked overtime on a constant basis to feed and clothe his family, and my Mom was a full-time EVERYTHING, literally feeding, clothing, and passionately raising her six children 24/7.   

What my Mom said to my Uncle that one Saturday night has stayed with me for life.  She realized that she wasn’t going to fix the world as a mother of six.  She didn’t have the additional time and energy that would require.  By the way, she said that respectfully.  But what she could do to help the world to make sure that her children grew up feeling loved, cared for, and respected.  She likened it very much to the speech that Robert Kennedy gave about ripples on the pond.  Take care of those closest to you first, and their energy will ripple out and touch others.

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind*

I’ve always tried to make sure those around me felt those lessons I learned as a child.  Good work and kindness was always rewarded in my childhood.  The reward didn’t have to be much more than a knowing and appreciative smile from my mother to know I’d done the right thing.  It has paid off hundreds-fold in my work career and life in general.  Recognizing goodness in others is a hallmark of respect.  As a supervisor and manager in my early corporate days, I built a reputation for being fair, encouraging, motivated, and kind.  I don’t tell you that to make myself look good.  That came naturally to me because of the great teachings and examples my parents set.  I always felt recognized when I did something great, and it was obvious when I didn’t as well.  It was only natural to me to share that kindness and respect with those closest to me, be it a work-related person, or a friend or family member.   Fortunately I always seemed to be in position to help others and that wasn’t coincidence, that was learned.

When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind*

The events of May 22, 2017 in Manchester, England underscore what I’m trying to say.  When tragedy struck that city at the hands of a suicide bomber, residents from all over the city came to the site and lent a hand wherever they could.  Cab drivers and passersby took people away from the carnage, and returned repeatedly to do so, not knowing if the danger was over.  People locally opened their homes and sheltered those who were traumatized and hurt.  And the whole city banded together the next day to pray for those killed and hurt in their wonderful city.  They didn’t resort to hatred or screaming.  They united instead and reveled in their strength.  No one directed people to do the things they did to help that day.  And no one affected by the terrorist bomb expected the help by everyday people. Yet, there were heroes everywhere…helping wherever they could.

Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why
Bitterness keeps you from flying
Always stay humble and kind*

The arch of this blog should be fairly obvious for those taking the time to read it.  We all have a hand in setting the examples of love, respect, kindness and humbleness for ourselves, for our children, and for each other.  There is no magic wand to fix all the hatred in the world.  It’s not something that you can wish away or even pray away.  But if everyone takes just a minute to reflect on the things you were taught as a child, the never-ending lessons of love and respect for each other that keeps us together as families, you’ll find it easily extends to those immediately around us, and then continues to ripple outward to those we don’t even know.  Always stay humble and kind!

* The song, ‘Humble & Kind’ was written by Lori McKenna.  It was recorded first by singer Tim McGraw and then also by Lori McKenna.

Monday, March 13, 2017



I’m very excited to sit here at my keyboard right now and write this first blog for this site.  I’ve written my fair share of books, scientific papers, and even a little poetry (very little - <grin>), but this is a first, and I really like the idea.  I’ve set off on this journey to speak publicly about RESPECT, a universal necessity, but one we don’t consider nearly enough in the everyday hustle and bustle.  There are just so many ways that word, that feeling, that glue of agreement/cooperation/friendship/love...RESPECT…comes in to play in so many ways of our life.

I learned the word at a very young age.  It was the cornerstone of my father’s life, and he made sure to impart the word and it’s intense meaning to me from the very start.  One of the things I remember most growing up as a child was what I called, ‘the sit-downs’.  They would occur randomly through my childhood…a Saturday night sitting on the front steps in Spring, hanging in the backyard after a baseball catch, or sitting around the dining room table on a Friday night, talking about religion, politics, sports, news of the day…anything really, but the one thing we always seemed to get back to, was the respect we had for each other’s opinion. 

Years down the road when I was in college and I brought my roommate home for a weekend, he later told me how much he enjoyed the visit, the conversations, and how amazed he was that no matter what the subject, even the youngest sibling, Kate, at 10 years old, got a chance to weigh in with her thoughts…and everyone listened.  I was taught right from the very start that everyone’s voice should be heard and that even if their thoughts didn’t fit with mine, I was to respect their position, as everyone’s perspective is different, and sometimes more right than my own.  If I didn’t talk with them, sit down and exchange ideas, I would never learn about those different perspectives.  This was one of the greatest gifts my Dad gave me…the love and respect of everyone was attained simply by listening and respecting the thoughts and skills of others.

There was yet another real-life lesson learned on this subject that occurred was I was just 10 years old.  My Dad was working for company called Baldwin Locomotive, made famous for the train engines they built.  Growing up in the middle-class, white suburbs of Philadelphia, I didn’t know many black people, and they were something of a mystery to me, sad but true.  The only thing I did know was that for some reason, there was quite a divide between black and white folks, but I didn’t understand why at that age.  But when I went to an Open House at Baldwin’s one time, I slipped away from my Dad long enough to explore the giant shop he was in charge of there.  His shop was responsible for laying-out the giant steel plates used for building all kinds of things.  Laying-out was the act of measuring and marking the steel for either a burner to shape the steel plate or for a welder to add more steel in certain places.  I came across a much-older-than-my-Dad black man who was working that weekend day, his name was Sam, and he asked me who I was.  I told him my name was Frank Monahan, and my Dad worked here too.  He very suddenly softened, stood straight up, and motioned for me to come to the side of the steel he was standing.  He showed me everything he was doing to mark up the steel and prepare it for further work.  Then he crouched down and looked me right in the eyes.  “Son, he said, your Father is my boss, and never forget this…he is one of the kindest and most respectful men I’ve ever met.  I was a simple sweeper when I came to work here, but your father took the time to get to know me, to understand what I know and what I don’t know.  He asked me to help him on a particular job one day, a problem spot, and I was able to help him.  I thought that was the end of it, but no, your Dad put in for me to get a promotion, and now I’m a lay-out man just like the others.  No one ever took the time to see what I could do, but your Dad did and I’m forever grateful.”

Well, as a 10-year old boy, this was truly a wonderful thing.  A man I didn’t even know was telling me how great my Dad was, unsolicited…and it all came down to having simple respect for another human being, no matter what color, no matter what really.  That man’s life was made better by a higher-wage job, but especially by someone who recognized something in him and gave him an opportunity no one else would.  To say that was a major, major influencer of my life would be giving it short shrift.  It is one of my starkest and most wonderful memories, and a lesson that has lived in me from that very day.

If you have picked up on my drift in this blog, the simple message is this…everyone needs to be listened to, everyone, young or old, black/white/green/purple,  needs someone to hear them out, to respect another point of view on the chance it might show you a different way.  Thanks, Dad…and thanks, Sam!