it’s the default and it must be

Linda Caroll
Jun 9 · 3 min read

Someone told me, once, that respect is earned. And
for a long time, I bought it and I thought it. It made
some kind of sense, but then, the best lies often do.

How easy it is, then, to vent your spleen on others,
spewing anger, vitriol and insults and never mind
how it makes them feel, because respect is earned.

One day, a little old lady spilled her bag of oranges at
the grocery store. Her face crumpled and I ran. Ran
to pick them up for her. Bless you, she said. Bless you.

The way her face lit up stayed with me all day. Made
me feel warm inside, and somehow, the world was little
less ugly, for a while. It was never about the oranges.

And I can’t help but wonder if you know what respect
even is. The golden rule, Mama used to call it when I
was a small child. Kindness. Consideration. Manners.

But never mind Mama, Mr. Webster tells me respect is
regard for the rights and feelings of other people and I
wonder why I ever believed that needed to be earned.

Gifts. Small gifts we give each other not because they
were earned but because kindness is free and it costs
us nothing to let another person keep their dignity.

Because what is the alternative? To live in a world
that resembles Walmart on Black Friday? Yelling,
shoving and flipping the bird everywhere we go?

I don’t want to live in that world, never mind that
sometimes I do and it occurs to me that there is no
such thing as too much kindness or consideration.

Respect is not earned, sugar. Respect is the default.
It must be. Civility relies upon it. And if don’t have
civility, what do we have, then? What’s even left?

Respect is not earned, sugar. Respect is the default.
Disrespect. That’s what is earned. And I suspect that
the fastest way to earn it might be a lack of respect.

If you liked this, you might also like…


This story is published in a Few Words, Medium’s brand new publication which only accepts stories that have less than 500 words.

If you have a few meaningful words to say and want to be a writer in our publication, visit our page.

a Few Words

A few words can change lives.

Linda Caroll

Written by

Writer, consultant, maker of things. Also, Canadian. http://lindac.me/

a Few Words

A few words can change lives.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade