By JoEllen Kimball, ISD 423 Board of Education
On New Year’s Day 2020 my husband and I went to a pig roast at my college roommate’s home in Arizona. There were about one hundred people present. We joined young and old people, neighbors, co-workers, high school and college friends and friends of the hosts’ adult children. It was a great party with lots of food, beverages, and conversations. We celebrated the excitement of a new year without the divisiveness of current hot topics. Everyone was civil though there were probably many different opinions on politics, religion, and social issues represented.
Opal Tometi defines civility as “the recognition that all people have dignity that is inherent to their person no matter their religion, race, gender, sexuality, or ability.”
If it was easy to be civil at a party with mostly strangers, could it be more or less difficult to be civil to people we know well? I have come to learn that my parents and grandparents had strong and differing opinions about politics, religion, education, and child rearing. However, growing up I never doubted their love and respect for one another or for my siblings and me.
My grandparents cared for and celebrated us. They each gave us a specific gift, like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty.
My Grandpa Bailey shared his love of reading. He took us to the Dixon Public Library whenever we visited. Grandma Bailey, in her house dress and apron, worked all day to make our visits comfortable. I remember her advice to me, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Grandma Hughes shared her love of music with instruments and records for us to play. Grandpa Hughes helped us learn to love animals and playing outside. He gave us rides to his barn in the back of his truck. I remember riding pigs, gathering eggs, and catching insects with the butterfly net he made us.
Our visits were always civil because my parents and grandparents shared the values of courtesy and kindness. They believed in looking at people when you spoke to them and modeled learning and working hard throughout your life.
Now in 2020 civility is still a virtue to be taught, modeled, and practiced. I will not disagree aloud with parenting, education, religious, or political decisions of my own children as they raise my grandchildren. I will care for, comfort, and celebrate their lives and the lives of any children I come in contact with. The gifts I received of love for reading, music, nature, and meaningful work are still to be valued.
In the words of Cindy Ann Peterson, “Civility requires that we listen and interact with intent to learn and respect other’s opinions.”
Grandma, I will not put off working on this until tomorrow.