One of the recurring themes Mama has tried to instill in my life is how to treat people.
Kindness, of course, is tantamount.
Saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ along with other pleasantries should always be offered.
And maybe even more importantly, was Mama’s preaching about how people should not be used.
Perhaps the reason that lesson was so essential to Mama was it was something she learned firsthand when she was a child.
Mama was enjoying a bag of animal crackers one day, something she probably was just tickled that my uncle, Bobby, hadn’t hoodwinked her out of. His little cunning self normally tricked her into paying him for something she already owned outright.
So, there she was, enjoying her little cookies when the other kids came up asking her to share.
Mama, being the kind-hearted person she has always been, agreed.
The other kids were nice to her and wanted to play with her, as long as she had the cookies.
Once the cookies were gone, so were they.
When she asked them to play the next day, they asked if she had more cookies. She told them no. They didn’t want to play.
“That was awful,” I said when she recounted the story to me.
“It was,” she began. “But it taught me an important lesson. Some people are only nice to you as long as you can do things for them. Once you no longer can, they are gone.”
It pained me to think my Mama had been treated like that.
Even more painful is the realization that its not just kids wanting cookies that behave that way.
The morale of Mama’s story has played out quite repeatedly in my life and more frequently as an adult.
It’s a bit off-putting to have people only think of you when they need something.
There have been several times that people have contacted me out of the blue and free of preamble requesting advice, time, and other assorted favors that haven’t spoken to me in years.
A few even skip the fake pleasantries of “How have you been?” and launch right into what they want me to do for them.
As Granny would say, “If you can’t say boo to me the rest of the time, don’t come a-calling when you need me.”
Actually, she would say something a heck of a lot harsher and more vulgar, but I can’t put that here; I am sure you catch the drift of it though.
It has made me highly aware of who filters into my life only when they need something and who is always around, even if just in the background to pop in to say hey from time to time.
What can be the most shocking is the people that I haven’t spoken to in years – years, mind you – seem to have no hesitation in asking for favors.
“Is it something you are able to do?” Mama asked.
“Yeah,” I sighed.
“Then why do you not want to?”
I sighed again. Didn’t she get it? She remembered how she was treated when the cookies ran out. Kind of the same situation, in my opinion.
Mama weighed my complaint and told me I had a legitimate one. “But don’t be so quick to dismiss someone, Kitten,” she said. “If you can help them, do so. We’re supposed to be good to each other.”
I hate it when she does that – she always has a way of reminding me to be the bigger person, and sometimes, I just don’t want to.
Much like Granny would, I think that kind of behavior shouldn’t be rewarded by taking the high road but by telling the person they are a jerk.
“Mama, I am not dismissing them; I am just tired of people only contacting me when I can do something for them. That’s not friendship. It’s usery.”
Usery isn’t a real word but it should be. Especially in this situation.
“I am just saying if you can help someone, if it is in your power to do so, you should. We’re supposed to help one another. If you don’t want to be friends with this person, then you should tell them that as well.”
I didn’t consider the person a friend; more like an acquaintance with no boundaries.
“Well, if you don’t want to help them, maybe send them to someone who can. Just don’t be mean to them; there’s enough meanness in the world anyway and they evidently consider you a friend.”
“But, Mama,” I began weakly.
I really had no argument.
There are just different types of people in the world.
Those who are made by their Mamas to be good, decent people. And those who will use those people up until the favors run out.