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Works In Progress
9/3/2014 4:51:55 PM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali

I was standing in a gas station line recently trying to pay for some petro when I heard an older customer say something to another younger customer about watching his language. The younger person seemed to be astonished by the older person addressing him in a rather direct manner.

Like an unexpected and unscripted soap opera scene unfolding before my very eyes, I thought that I was witnessing another erratic sight from the unpredictable venues of 21st century daily living in the inner city customary American world of today. As the events would escalate, little did I know that I’d learn so much more about the power of the “hue-man” condition just by listening to another “hue-man” with patience and empathy.

Believe me, this was to be an eye opener for my unsuspecting spirit that would leave me in a good feeling space for just being present in that moment. Again, I learned that life is a continual lesson in constant speech, and it’s always talking to the wise among us.

The older customer became agitated when he first heard the young soul’s flippant use of random profanity. It wasn’t a lot, but just enough was said (and heard) to let you know that it wasn’t appropriate coming from anyone, especially a baby-faced youngster.

Watching the dynamic interchange between the two customers was an education in itself. It was interesting to hear and observe, because the conversation between the customers was more than the older customer telling a younger soul about the unnecessary usage of ill-words and inappropriate speech. It was about self-expression.

The young soul in question, to his behalf, took in what was been said to him by the older customer, apologized, and said that he was sorry for his improper language usage. That drew my attention to him for many reasons because he recognized he was out of character.

As I listened, I thought about the wisdom that the older individual told the younger customer because it reminded me about old school values and the respect we were taught to display 24-7, if you know what I mean. That astuteness stopped me right where I was, and it made me feel good to see a member to today’s youth self-check himself with an apologetic refrain. It was good to see.

Talk about being upfront. The young man was evidently somewhat embarrassed by being called out because of his untimely use of flippant profanity, but he was politely candid and openly respectful in his admission about being ashamed for his unfortunate use of language in a public location.

The young soul apologized to me and the cashier too, probably sensing that we were senior citizens. The young man was very unassuming and as he and I both made our way out of the gas station to pump gas in our vehicles, he made it a point, again, to tell me that he was sorry for his careless usage of tactless profanity.

Somehow, I sensed that this young soul was brought up with and around someone who had taught him manners and respect. There appeared to be something about his aura that I could tell that he was a good and well-mannered kid, so I took the opportunity to talk briefly about what had taken place.

I told him that words and actions are what most “hue-mans” judge each other by—for better or worse in life. I could see that he was still embarrassed by being “called on the carpet” by the older customer, but I told him don’t sweat it because, apparently, he knew that he’d made an error and he could only learn from it, and I said profoundly to him that we’re all “Works in Progress” and that no one is perfect.

It may seem strange for such an impromptu conversation to have taken place but if you saw this young soul’s demeanor, you’d probably have engaged in this spontaneous rap with him also. He was a handsome young man who’d just gotten his driver’s license, and he was out for a spin in his grandfather’s car. He was a “Work in Progress.”

After having completed pumping our gas in our respective vehicles, the young soul said that he appreciated me taking the time to talk to him about the incident. He said his grandfather was not doing so well, and he would have been angry with him if he knew that he’d embarrassed himself like that because he wasn’t raised that way.

The young soul went on to tell me that his grandparents raised him to always have respect for himself and others. He also said that gas station experience was not indicative of the kind of person he was, and he felt good that I didn’t brand him as an ill-mannered individual of color as society would probably have automatically done so today.

Upon listening to him further, he told me never knew who his real father was. His mother died of drugs when he was young and the only family he knew was his grandparents and that his grandmother died more than three years ago. Now, it was just him and his grandfather.

He told me that life has been a little hard for him and his grandfather in recent times, due mainly to his grandfather’s poor and declining health because of diabetes. I told him that his grandfather would be proud of him because he was growing up the right and that that day’s experience was just another page learned from the book of life. It would only make him stronger and wiser.

I told him reiterated once more that no one is perfect, and that this was a great opportunity for him to grow further into Black manhood. I emphasized to him the importance of exercising that upbringing that his grandparents exposed him to and that we’re all “Works in Progress,” so mustn’t be too hard on ourselves.

Life is about learning and growth. I told the young soul that I was glad to have met him and that being respectable and polite to others is also about respecting yourself as a “Work in Progress.”

The young man told me that no one other than his grandfather had ever spoken to him like that. It caught me by surprise because like I said, I’m old school in many ways, but it’s sure nice to see a young brother of color today recognize that the qualities of politeness and respect for self and others are important segments of “hue-man” admiration and communication.

Smiling, the young soul said that he surely appreciated the fact that I took the time to say what I said to him. I assured him that it was my pleasure and duty because I believed that he (truly) learned that a real man doesn’t have to curse to be able to get his point across.

We all need to patiently take a little bit more time with each other. We need to listen to each other with respect, no matter what the situation is in order to help us all understand the communication game of life better because, after all, aren’t we all “Works in Progress?”

For today, that’s, “As I See It.”

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: DebC Submitted: 9/10/2014
Excellent, excellent piece my brother! Both you and the elder did, what "The Village" used to do to take care of our own and I wholeheartedly commend you both for it! It is so uplifting for me to know there are still some of us who believe in our young folks and -- can understand that, like all of us, they are still "works in progress" still in need of guidance from a "village" THAT CARES enough to offer it. Too often today, many in the "village" tend to parrot the words, fears and actions of those who've worked earnestly to destroy the "village" because, in the main, they've never had our best interests at heart. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful "each one, teach one" example.

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