Growing up, my parents always instilled in us to treat others with the respect that we would want to be treated with. As the old adage goes, "treat others as you would want to be treated." I cannot overstate how often this was said to my brother and me. My dad used to tell us, "the way you get far in life, is make people feel respected and being well mannered," and he could not have been more right.
He would always tell us, "it doesn't matter if you are talking to the CEO of a company, or the person who cleans the bathrooms- you always look them in the eye and give them the same respect because we are all people."
I have always tried to practice that in my life because we all deserve to feel our worth and at one point or another, we have all felt less than that. Sure, we like and get along with some people better than others, but that doesn't mean everyone deserves our respect.
In my life thanks to basketball, I have been lucky enough to meet many people from all over the world. My favourite thing about being an international athlete is the opportunities I have had to meet all the incredible people that I have and learn their stories. I have met people who don't speak much English, people from different walks of life and faiths and people with some of the most interesting stories.
When I was playing in France, I was playing in this really cool small town, Vitre, about three hours from Paris. The city centre was a mix of old time style with some modern store fronts. There was a castle that was hundreds of years old at the centre of it. What you learn about people from small "country towns," regardless of where you are in the world, whether it be in America, Europe or Australia, is they are who they are. They are wrapped in the traditions of generations and they enjoy their way of life.
For those of you who aren't aware, the French don't have a reputation for being the most warm and welcoming people. But, I did my best to speak French when walking into shops or talking to people after games (my coach didn't speak English so I had an app I was learning French on and it was passable for basics in society.) My teammates told me that the community was taking to me because I was giving the effort to assimilate and not be an arrogant American.
Personally, I have always made friends and been drawn to a variety of people. Carlie and I joke all the time that we always build relationships with people that work in hospitality and the food industry. They aren't just restaurants, they become our friends. While living on the Sunshine Coast, we would eat at the same kebab shop after games each week, (head to Phoenix Kebab in Mooloolaba and thank me later.) These were some of the nicest people we have ever come across. The majority of them had immigrated from Turkey, looking for a better opportunity than what was presented to them at home.
Our games were held on the weekends and we would get there around 11pm or so. By this time, patrons from the local bars would stumble across, usually drunkenly, to grab some food. The lack of respect that was shown to these people would make you lose all faith in humanity. They were made fun of for their accents, or their appearance or sometimes even their job. Little did these people know what they overcame to get there, or they had been working 6 hours and still had another 4 to go, or even as mind blowing as it may seem, without them working there these people wouldn't be eating. There were times where I had to say something to people or the manager would remove them from the area.
Carlie and I had the opportunity to get to know these people over our two years on the coast, and their stories will blow you away. They're proud of their journey, they're proud they have a better life and should never feel belittled by someone else.
I never understood the concept that money equals power and entitlement, and I thank my upbringing for that.
When Carlie and I first started dating, we would be in the office at night until 1030 or so twice a week, running the junior and senior competitions. After the competitions finished, we would pack up and head off. There was always the same cleaning lady who would finishing tidying up and lock the facility behind us. This lady and Carlie had such a kind friendship and you could see the appreciation that she had for Carlie.
When I asked Carlie how she knew her, she looked at me and simply said, "I said hi when I was passing her one day and smiled."
Confused I asked her if that was it. She said it was and the day after that, the cleaner told her no one ever acknowledges her and she was grateful for it. Over time they spoke more and got to know each other better.
Imagine that you are working every day to make an honest living, doing a job frankly we should all have the decency to take care of ourselves, and someone makes a major impact on your life because they acknowledged you. This is what we have come to.
An interesting read for those looking for another similar anecdote is attached here. In short, John Kevin Hines stood on the the Golden Gate Bridge, ready to jump to his death for 40 minutes and if someone walking by had just smiled, said hello, or asked if he was okay, he wouldn't have jumped. 40 minutes, standing on the edge of a bridge and not a single person asked if he was okay.
We have lost our humanity along the way. I look at the United States and it's current state. This past election wasn't about politics, let's be honest, this was about decency and humanity. Trump has enabled and given the confidence of millions to act in a way that is completely unacceptable. I'm glad Biden won, I would love to come home and spend some time with my friends and loved ones since I haven't been back in two years now. I was proud of the roughly 78 million people who voted for decency.
What scares me and disappoints me though? The roughly 73 million people, who after four years of rants, acting like a child, lack of empathy to those oppressed and playing with human lives for their own political gain, voted to keep America moving backwards. 73 million people. Disgusting.
I look at all of this, and I can't help but wonder, where is it we are actually heading? We are the most capable species on the planet, we can achieve anything we want, yet we can't acknowledge basic principles and rights of our fellow man? Animals show more compassion than humans do.
People call the younger generation "soft" and "easily offended." I don't think that's actually the case though. I think we are more conscious of other peoples feelings and their own humanity. I never understood the, "you can't say anything anymore" crowd. Why do you want to to say something that would belittle or make another person feel uncomfortable? Now there are plenty of occasions where we don't realise we have offended someone, and that happens, but there's no reason we can't address and fix those issues. Imagine living in a world where no one gets put down, no one is offended because there's nothing offensive being put across. Imagine the progress and steps forward we could make.
I'm speaking to the men in particular right now. We are constantly told you need to be tough, hardened and you can't show weakness. It was recently brought to my attention, that as an athlete, you are taught to identify weaknesses in people, and you exploit that trying to crush them. My jaw dropped, I had never thought about that before but it was true. In a game, if an opponent can't go left, or can't shoot, you try to force them into that. In society we do the same, "toxic masculinity." Where has that gotten our parents? Our father's and grandfathers in particular. They deal with demons that we couldn't imagine, suppressed emotions that have only built up over time. Look no further than the people in government.
I now want you to think of the most "manly" person you can think of. Someone who epitomises everything we are taught- hard working, tough as nails and a general sense of masculinity. For me personally, the first person that come to mind is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. His entire image is based on "being the hardest worker in the room." He's a former professional football player and wrestler. His physique is obviously another thing that comes to mind. But if you really follow his social media, he lets the world see his more sensitive, unguarded side quite often.
My point being, there's nothing wrong with showing compassion for people. It doesn't make you weak or soft. It makes you a human, and a good one at that. It makes you someone who is making this world a better place. Not sure there is anyone who is calling The Rock soft and if there is, I would love to meet them.
We all fall victim to losing ourselves at one time or another, and that's what life is about, it's a journey so it's okay. I will gladly put my hand up and admit that I lost myself for a long time, constantly trying to swim to the surface to get my head above water, so to speak. You can always right your ship though, never forget that.
When it comes to women, I have learned a lot since being with Carlie, but I feel it would be best to tell that side of the story with a group of women so look for that coming soon.
So please remember, it doesn't matter who it is you come across in this world, they are worth your time. Smile and say hello, hold the door open an extra second for that person coming through it. Treat the person at the bottom of the ladder the way you treat the person at the top of it, because as I have learned in sports, you're only as strong as your weakest link. You never know what your act of kindness can do for someone and you never know what that person may be able to help you with down the line.
Be kind, make the world a better place.
Love to you all.