There are quite a few small towns in Texas; I live in one of them. It’s a town so small the local newspaper is a weekly. Some time back there was a letter to the editor of the paper, a letter recognizing a certain young man’s uncommon gesture of compassion and respect.
An elderly woman of considerable wealth had passed away. Although she had lived in the community most of her life, there were no heirs living nearby. She had designated a niece living on the east coast to settle her estate upon her death.
To country people, her funeral was an impressive event. The procession to a small family cemetery seemed to stretch endlessly down a dusty county road.
A farm truck ahead caught the niece’s attention. It moved to the side of the road and stopped to let the procession pass. A young man, not much more than a teen, stepped out of the truck and stood by as the hearse and all the cars passed. In her letter to the editor, the niece wrote how he removed his cowboy hat, placed it over his heart, and stood there in solemn respect as the entire procession went by.
Needless to say, she was touched. To this day, no one is certain of his name. No matter, the impact of that simple gesture still remains.
In all our talk and research about something we call “social intelligence,” this kid was an Einstein. By now he’s probably married with a family of his own.
Where Did He Learn It?
Where did this young man learn that simple and profound gesture toward that funeral procession? Where did he learn that his plans for that morning would wait for the sake of someone he probably didn’t even know?
The answer to either question isn’t difficult: He knew instinctively what to do from watching his parents time and time again. They, in turn, learned from their folks. Perhaps we could call it a multigenerational, community college-level Social Intelligence 101 class, but in real time and in the real world.
And don’t you think his kids today are knocking out “A”s in that class?
Plain Respect and Manners
There was a time when social intelligence was played out as just plain respect and manners. It’s a good thing a fancy name doesn’t alter the gestures of a caring heart.
So, if the mothers and fathers of this world want to bring along a few more “special-category” Einsteins, well, the world will be ready for them.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expertise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio program supporting young people and their families, and every month he publishes The Changing Behavior Digest, offering tips on managing challenging children and teens. Both resources (and others) are available at no cost through his website, http://www.DocSpeak.com.