Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

by Beverly Hobbs Shea

From as early as I can remember, my parents used to say to

always “own” my words and actions, to take responsibility

when it was mine to take, and to let integrity be my both

my inner guide and the one hallmark of my existence. That

was in the 50s and 60s – long before it was a fashionable

retro quality to be referred to. That was the time when I

roller skated with a key hung around my neck and no helmet,

when I left the house right after breakfast and returned

when it got dark (sans cellphone), and when teachers walked

the classroom aisles with threatening wooden ruler in hand

because no words were needed. It was clearly a time when

self-discipline, internal fortitude, and respect molded us

into the adults we were expected to be.

Everyone has their own path; it’s not for one to judge

what’s in another’s heart and mind. But while it’s not

right to judge, it’s hard not to observe the fruit of those

early years as it ripens with age and manifests. Speaking

strictly for myself, I’ve often wondered what happened to

many of those roller-skating neighborhood kids as I now

interact with them as adults; I just remind myself that

adults are just kids in bigger bodies (myself included)!

What happened that our generation collectively forgot the

values of hard and honest work, and of teaching the ones

that look to emulate us? Did we abdicate our duty to

demonstrate that it’s more important to stand for what is

correct and right than it is to sit for what is popular and

mediocre ?

And as I did when my own children were young, I now seek to

operate with the very same values the preceding generation

passed down to me — not just parents and teachers, but

early employers and mentors who modeled skill sets both

professionally and personally. I find myself grateful now

for the opportunity to look people in the eye and say what

I mean, and mean what I say; and to know that actions

always speak louder than even the loudest words.

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