When we travel concrete, asphalt-paved roads and highways, we often encounter a sign that tells us to yield. I sometimes wonder if perhaps this is a sign we need to encounter more frequently on our own personal highway or path as we travel through life.
In our cars, yield usually means to “give the right of way”; but, if we apply the term to our life it can easily be synonymous with “tolerate”, “trust”, “accept”, and “acknowledge”. Now if we associate the word “yield” to the word “rights”, we can remind ourselves of our need to yield to the individual rights AND beliefs of others. I am not speaking only of those rights set forth in our constitution nor the human rights of dignity and respect, but rather our innate right to be accepted for our differences including the color of our skin and the choice of our beliefs. Now I will be the first to admit the human race may never reach a Utopian reality; yet, all the same, it is a virtuous goal worth YIELDING to.
There is the often repeated tale of an old man walking along a beach where thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. In the distance a young man appears to be walking towards this old man. And what the young man observes is this old man very slowly walking, bending over and picking up one starfish at a time and gently tossing each one into the water. The young man finally reaches the older man and asks why he is returning the starfish to the water. The old man replied, “the tide is going out and if they don’t return to the water, they will die”. The young man responded, “but the beach goes on for miles and miles. You can’t possibly save them all before the tide recedes. Your efforts will be wasted! What you are doing is not going to make a difference.” The old man continued to reach down to a starfish, picked it up, and in doing so, with a sense of tranquility looked at the young man and said, “Well, it will makea difference to this one!”
Perhaps each of us has an obligation to pick each other up from the judgments and intolerences that lie on our own “shoreline” of prejudices and negative experiences, to teach and to model for our fellow man how we might yield to the rights of others to be who they are ….and to respect and tolerate each other’s differences as long as no harm to another occurs. And just like the old man with the starfish, we may not reach everyone, but if we can make a difference in one, two or a few lives, we will have had the fulfillment of knowing that we are yielding to our human nature, the human condition and to our deep spirit of kindness.
If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity-John F. Kennedy