In my elementary years I attended Laura Secord School on Wolseley Avenue. In grade six I had a classroom teacher called Blanche Coxworth. She was an amazing teacher, very committed to her students and giving them as much passion as she possessed.
One thing she taught us has stayed with me all my life. Every day before we began the school day we all had to put on our “golden gloves”, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Such a simple concept, yet it seems to have eluded many people in our world today.
When Barbra and I married, we established that our marriage would be a participatory relationship where there were no gender-assigned tasks or responsibilities. She has always had a bent for fixing things and loves her power tools and gadgets; I am content being in the kitchen preparing meals and making home life easier, and always took my fair share of the workload with our children. As I watch our son and his wife, I see echoes of this in their family life, too.
Recent developments in the transit system had me thinking about the kindness of people like bus drivers, whom we may sometimes seem to take for granted. The students of Luxton school did a wonderful thing in publicly showing their appreciation of the transit drivers recently, with letters and notes and coffee for them. So many people who work in service are taken for granted by the general public. We need to be aware of the many opportunities we have to say thanks and show we value people.
I began my career in the display department at Eaton’s back in the late sixties, and realized there were hundreds of people who made my job easier, for example the construction people, the electricians, painters and cleaning crew. I got to know them by name and treated them with simple courtesy. They responded by paying me the same courtesy when we worked together, always doing jobs well and efficiently.
Try to remember that person at the grocery store who checks you out when you leave. Begin with a polite hello. The fact you have done so will no doubt brighten their day.
Remember that we all love to be connected in this world. There are so many small gestures that mean a great deal to people. We have friends who are alone in this world, and over the many years of our marriage we have never left them out of our lives. We try to keep in touch and to find things that we can include them in.
One of them told me recently that after her husband’s death we were the only couple that kept including her in our social life. I felt badly as she is as charming and fun-loving as she was when she had a partner. We can make a difference in people’s lives if we make the effort to see them as the individuals that they have always been, and thereby make them feel comfortable.
Barbra often comments that I can find any excuse to bring home some very small treat to her, that I know when to do something that will bring her pleasure. We try to keep kindness at the centre of our relationship and to never take one another for granted.
There are people who recognize one’s kindnesses and try to reciprocate and others that take them for granted. I don’t discriminate between these different people, but rather hope that one day everyone will put on their “golden gloves” and learn to treat others with dignity and kindness.
When I do something kind to another person, I can still see Mrs, Coxworth at the front of my grade six class putting on her gloves as we begin the day
Jim Pappas is a member of the CJNU board.