Croskey’s Corner: Loyalty
Dance with one who Brung You
by Bill Croskey
Lindsay Lohan taught us about teenage girls in Mean Girls, right? They backstab, they compete for guys – just for the sake of competing, yes? They have difficulty sustaining a relationship with another female because they’re only in “it” for themselves. That all happens, I know. I saw it often in my job. But I know 2 teenagers who seem to have outgrown that mold. One young lady, Ella, has had some emotional trauma. She found a good therapist and learned to cope with life’s struggles. Her friend, Liz, has listened to these ups and downs and had offered support. At one point, the traumatized Ella said to her friend, “You are the only person I can really count on.” So, in order to give that support substance, Liz wrote herself a note which said, “Text Ella every night before bed.” Liz stuck that note on her bathroom mirror. Every night, when she brushes her teeth, she sees the reminder to text Ella. And, that’s what she does. She texts Ella and says, “I love you and care about you.”
Simple acts done reliably. There is a lot of power in that. The Character Quality of the Month is Loyalty. It is defined as “demonstrating commitment to others.” It reminds me of another act of loyalty. I have a friend, Margaret. She is in her late 80’s. Sadly, too many of her friends and loved ones have passed away. She has lost 2 husbands. Margaret is not one to sink into a depression of old age. She mourns the passing of these, but she does not fixate upon that loss. Rather, she pays tribute to them; she visits their graves. Margaret is of the generation which says that part of life is death and part of death is visiting cemeteries and leaving flowers on the graves – in short, doing your duty. This devotion to duty suggests that Loyalty is about brave commitment during hard times, but also about building reliable habits that will sustain loyal behavior through those exact hard times.
At my house, one of our mottoes was, “You gotta dance with the one who brung you.” (With my poor grammar, I didn’t get invited to a lot of dances to begin with!) For us, that meant that if any of us made a commitment to do something fun with a friend, or be somewhere we didn’t want to go, or share a big event with a particular person, the commitment was honored. Even when a better “offer” came along later. Each of us chafed at that commitment at times, but we applied the Golden Rule: If any of us had our invitations accepted, we didn’t want to end up being dumped because our friend was seeking an “upgrade.” I guess I learned this from experience. In high school, a girl asked me to a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance before my real romantic interest could. I said “No” to the first invitation; you know, I had a “family obligation.” (Sit at home and watch Saturday night TV.) When my true love invited me, I reluctantly declined and explained what happened. I survived. Later, in college, I invited a new friend to go out. She said “Yes” and then later called to say she had to wash her hair. No kidding! You know how long the lines for showers are in those dorms! What else could she do?
I guess I have learned as much about loyalty from disloyalty as I have from the times of commitments being reliably kept. Building loyalty in yourself requires an initial commitment to someone or some ideal but then rehearsing the loyal act must follow until it is habit. It is so much easier to act loyally if every discrete act does not require a new moral dilemma to resolve. Indeed, the 49th time of acting with Loyalty is easier than the first few times. Teachers can help. First, teaching kids the meaning of Loyalty is a good start. Then reminding them of their commitments helps. But, mostly, it is about modeling Loyalty for them. Classroom duties, carried out reliably, are the makings of Loyalty. Parents and other significant adults don’t have nearly as difficult a job encouraging Loyalty in children if they ARE Loyal. So, Dance with the one who brung you. You may even end up being glad you were brung!