Unlike many folks, I still read the newspaper. Long ago someone taught me to read the comics first and that is some of the best advice I ever received. So religiously,
I turn to the back pages of The Charlotte Observer and work my way from there. When I do, I chuckle at memories from my own life brought to mind through the images of Baby Blues and Zits.
Reluctantly, I have begun to see myself in Earl and Opal of Pickles as well. The ongoing stories of these families remind me that as much as life is changing, much of it has stayed the same. Many of us share the challenges of raising toddlers, changing stinky diapers, and parenting overactive young boys and pre-teen girls on their journeys to adulthood.
Except for the names and faces, the episodes of Zits frequently could have taken place in our own kitchen. Wearing my favorite baggy khakis gives me a feeling of kinship with Earl.
And then there are the old standbys. Beetle Bailey. Peanuts and Blondie. It seems as though they have been around forever. And although the situations subtlety change with the times, the story lines are remarkably similar to the ones when I read them for the first time.
The Editorial Page
In today’s world of social media, by the time I open the paper, even I have already received most of the breaking news facts – usually by checking my Twitter account just before bedtime. So, as I sip my juice and coffee, next I turn to the editorial page. This is where I seek perspective and enlightenment from a variety of folks who appear to be wiser than me. Today, unfortunately, many of those columns share a theme of intolerance, confrontation and a lack of civility from every angle. Reading these pages can be stressful and it is easy to overreact to them – one way or the other.
But I am prepared to read on calmly. You see, in contrast, my first exposure to the new day was full of bright colors as I visited with old and familiar friends. They made me laugh. In real life, too, the dreams of families remain the same while we still struggle with the same challenges. Life has its problems. Families work on them. The good news is that we usually succeed in overcoming most of the challenges and life goes on. So, I choose to “go placidly amid the noise and haste…” [Desiderata]
We should all participate in the “editorial page” of our lives. Each of us should be true to our beliefs. We should take a stand when we need to. We should speak our minds. We should seek truth and justice. We should stand up and help those in need. But can’t we choose to pursue those things calmly with respect and decency? Can’t we tolerate differences and remember that we are more alike than we are different? Can’t we approach our days knowing we live in a beautiful world and wonderful country… despite its occasional “sham, drudgery and broken dreams”?
I believe others take the same positive sense from the comics. But many have given up on reading those pages. They bypass the opportunity to launch their day with a joyful attitude. I am not selling newspapers, but I wonder what might happen if we all paused long enough to read the comics each morning. What if we all shared those same moments of reflection? Maybe then we would all carry a spirit of harmony as we dive into the issues of the editorial page that work to divide us.
Role models for respect and decency
In a recent Be There Dad workshop, dads agreed that our common bond of fatherhood allows us to be the role models for respect and civility along with unity and love. We talked about Remember the Titans, a movie that follows the season of a high school football team during the first year of its integration. In an emotional scene, after an exhausting late night run to the Gettysburg battlefield, Coach Boone implores his young players, “If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed. I don’t care if you like each other, but you will respect each other.”
Then, in the closing scene, ten years later, at the funeral of one of those players, Sheryl Yoast sums up their journey and the spirit of hope created by that team when she says, “We still have our disagreements, of course, but before we reach for hate, always, always, we remember the Titans.”
As long as the paper comes to my doorstep, I will reach for the comics first. I will start my day with a smile before I react to the opinions of others. We can all choose to start our days looking for differences or by reflecting on the things we have in common and embracing the goodness that still endures. It is our choice, but our children will be watching and will likely follow our example.
Let’s reach first for the comics, then remember the Titans.
Nobody wins until we all do.