I have missed a few column deadlines. We have been away down to the land of the Stepford Families. It is a pleasant town where my husband and I grew up and then raised our children.
It is also the place we escaped from to settle on the Lost Coast away from traffic, smog, and designer living with the need to always appear perfect. Spending time there this past month made me miss it terribly, but also miss life here just as strongly. Guess I am conflicted by the desire to have everything around me neat, clean and attractive on one hand and wild and natural on the other. There is certainly a beauty to both.
We left behind a town with well-paved streets and manicured median strips - never a weed in sight. Front yards are always well landscaped. City parks and buildings are modern and fully accessible. I could go on telling you about this fairyland of a place.
But the thing so easy to forget, even when living there, is that there is just as much brokenness and pain behind the front doors of those upscale homes as anywhere else. Illness, injury, divorce, abuse, addictions, rebellious children, financial struggles, loneliness, and depression trample families everywhere. Striving for health and wholeness is the work of all of us no matter where we live.
We talked to a shop owner going out of business in that politically correct community and discovered she is closing because she can no longer deal with customer behaviors that sound more like here than there. She has had customers swearing at her over prices, groping her physically, invading her office to use her computer, bathing in her restroom, and leaving trash outside her door. Over the past few years being in retail business became no fun.
Does this represent what commentators are beginning to talk about as the “cheapening” and coarsening of Americans? In an attempt to be free of constraint we seem to be scratching away our layer of civility to treat others with disrespect and foul behavior. The refusal of some to recognize healthy boundaries with others is raising the level of anger that we all carry around with us.
Back in the ‘50s, I remember reading a short story that depicted our future as one where no one left home and everything one needed was delivered robotically to your house. We all thought it was absurd. Today with access to the world through the computer it is becoming a reality for people wishing to avoid the behavior of others.
How sad. Instead of learning and encouraging healthy civil behavior we are moving in the opposite direction. Some schools have become “no touch” zones where children cannot even touch one another in play for fear of some form of abuse. Do you know how unhealthy that is? Studies show for maximum health everyone needs seven hugs a day. Seven hugs a day. When was the last time you got seven hugs a day? And now, how awful to get no touch at all during the school day?
Whatever are we doing to ourselves? In attempts to lead perfect lives in perfect towns with the perfect family we are becoming the most imperfect of people. Life is messy and wild and full of dangers we each must learn to deal with; and being civil with each other is the first step. Respecting boundaries is number two.
Doing unto others as we would have done unto us is the key.
Evelyn King is a preaching elder at the Community Presbyterian Church with graduate work in values education from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a BA in psychology/social science. She is a past director of the Healy Senior Center and the facilitator of senior fitness exercise.