Today I have the honor of partnering with Futures Without Violence (through Popsugar Select Moms) in support of its RESPECT! Challenge. Futures Without Violence provides programs, policies, and campaigns to end violence against women and children around the world.
“Command respect. Don’t demand it.”
That is what a mentor told me when I interviewed him for a high school career project. The summer before I went to college I worked for a Systems Engineering company close to Washington D.C where he (my mentor) was the Founder and CEO. This summer would be one of my first encounters with an entrepreneur. Seeing how a small business worked where everyone had to chip in from developers to support staff. Like my father, he had come from India and built a life for his family in the United States.
I would learn a lot about respect that summer.
I was the front office secretary and I hated it. I split the job with the CEO’s daughter who was just one year behind me in school but was brilliant. She would go on to get a perfect score on her SATs and go into the medical field. My less than perfect score would cause me to struggle with the thought that I was a failure to my Indian heritage.
Boredom was my companion that summer. I would sit and calculate how much I would make on my paycheck that week to pass the time. My mind didn’t naturally work in the administrative tasks. At 17 I didn’t know the company mission or understand how support staff was everything to a small company. I was tired every day from getting up early with my dad and driving through rush hour DC traffic to work and coming home late into the evening. I didn’t know how to take pride in my job.
“Command respect. Don’t demand it.”
These words echo in my mind even 18 years later.
The main difference between the words “command and demand” is that demanding respect is asking, seeking or claiming something that is due. I would elaborate to say that one can think that it is due when it might not be. If you have to ask, seek or claim respect…then you don’t really have it. To command means to have influencing and to receive something that is due. It is due, there is no question about it. You have it there is no need to seek a claim. Commanding respect means you have earned it and it’s due to you.
At 17 I wanted it. I thought I deserved it. I did well in school, I never caused trouble at home, and I was going to college soon. However, I would react in the normal teenager-ish chip on my shoulder way if I felt disrespected. (I still fight that tendency). I demanded it. I would keep my frustration inside when I didn’t feel like I was getting respect. After all, this job was easy…just sooo boring. I wanted a project, something to engage my brain. I remember getting a firm talking to for falling asleep at my desk one day. How could you blame me when every 3 hours only 1 person came into the office and the phone rang maybe 1 time an hour? Geesh.
But I didn’t know that when you do a good job at the small things you get entrusted with the bigger things.
I went to work every day getting up while it was dark, driving through the crazy, scary 6 lanes of traffic (my dad took the drive home), sit at that dang desk for 8 hours and drive another 1 hour and 45 minutes home every day of the work week. I would come home to more chores, family demands and trying to figure out how to prepare for my move to Purdue University. Life wasn’t so carefree anymore.
My father never complained. Not one time that I could remember. He woke up, went to work, came home and dealt with the traffic, bills, family, work at home without complaint.
That summer I saw the work ethic of men who traveled from east to west with courageous hearts to start life for themselves, have a family and give their children the best opportunities they could.
While I internally fumed at how 13-14 hours of my day were taken up by work, how 4-5 of those hours weren’t even paid for and how I really didn’t like my job; my father went to work and provided for our family without negative words. He just kept going every day…for us.
That summer I learned about respect in the most unexpected way. My dad quietly earned my respect. He commanded it because of his work ethic and his diligence every day for his family. He patiently let me learn about working with patience and support. He could have chosen to react to my bad attitude. But he didn’t.
That summer I had a brief moment of stepping into my dad’s shoes, walking his path. A path that traveled across lands, oceans, and roads to another country, and a new culture. A path that resulted in building a life from the ground up with faith and determination and love. I say love because my mother walked a similar path coming from Jamaica. And so this life they built was together.
I would find out later that my dad had been laid off from his job and had taken this new job close to D.C., which he was actually over qualified for…to keep us going. My mother kept things going at home while her spouse was away many hours of the day as well. We always had a homecooked meal to come home to, gifted to us by a strong woman raising her children with love and support to go out into the world. Never being selfish or holding us back. These words from her I still hold in my heart:
“The sky is the limit, Dija. You can do anything you want.”
That summer I learned about respect. It’s not pretty, or glamorous, or loud. It’s earned in the quiet, steady work or a person. It’s earned not in loud demands or fearful tones; but it is earned in kindness and diligence.
A beloved leader who has earned his followers respect over time can command his troops into the fiercest battle without fear of rebellion. Commanding respect means you can trust that those you expect it from will give it willingly because you have earned it.
18 years later this lesson has affected my life in a major way. As I parent my children, as I go to work, as I deal in business, or in the community. I remember that respect is earned and then commanded.
Respect is a good thing, a noble thing. When it’s mutual, amazing things can happen in our world.
When I finally told my dad I felt like a disgrace because I didn’t get a perfect score on my SATs (I know, I have a dramatic streak.) My dad told me that he was proud of me. He said that he was proud because his kids asked questions, had our own thought processes and didn’t just accept everything that we were taught. He was proud of us no matter what.
Today he tells me the same thing when I feel inadequate having had chosen to stay home to raise our kids. He encourages me in my choice and I know he is just as proud of me (a stay at home mom) as he is my sis ( a surgeon) and my brother (a father of 4, and VP at an Engineering firm.)
That is the summer I learned about respect. Today I’m working to live it out.
Share who taught you about respect by joining the Respect Challenge put on by Futures Without Violence and win $10,000 for a non-profit or school or even a VIP trip to NY and a $500 gift card from Macy’s.
“For more than 30 years, FUTURES has been providing groundbreaking programs, policies, and campaigns that empower individuals and organizations working to end violence against women and children around the world.
Providing leadership from offices in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Boston, we’ve established a state-of-the-art Center for Leadership and Action in the Presidio of San Francisco to foster ongoing dialogue about gender-based violence and child abuse.
Striving to reach new audiences and transform social norms, we train professionals such as doctors, nurses, judges, and athletic coaches on improving responses to violence and abuse. We also work with advocates, policy makers, and others to build sustainable community leadership and educate people everywhere about the importance of respect and healthy relationships.
Our vision is a future without violence that provides education, safety, justice, and hope.”
To find out more you can watch the video below. Don’t forget to support a future without violence by liking their facebook page.