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“Caring for others doesn’t mean just the people like you” – published!

GOLDEN RULE MOMENTS 

Golden Rule Moments come in different forms. Most often, we relate them to deeds of kindness. Another form of the Golden Rule is when someone comes into our lives to teach us valuable life lessons. That’s my story for today.

Hearkening back to the ’60’s, the focus in America was on race relations, school integration and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quest for equality. I was in my fifth year of pastoring a church in southern Michigan when an incident surrounding a horse-riding accident led to my resignation.

While pastoring, I worked with the youth in our small village and especially those who were considered delinquent. After recovering from this incident, I began seeking employment as a probation officer in a larger Michigan city. The judge was familiar with my work with the youth and gave me a job based on the recommendation of the probation officer I had worked with.

When I received my caseload, I was delighted to discover that there was a large number of them who played sports in their high school. Since I had played baseball and basketball all through high school and college, I was attracted to those boys who were like-minded. Many of them were black young men, and I prided myself in being able to bridge the racial barrier, which in those days could be quite challenging.

I would often take them to the local university basketball or football games or invite them to my house. Overall, I was having a wonderful time developing a relationship with the boys in my caseload whom I identified with.

My Golden Rule Moment happened about the sixth month on the job. I was sitting in my office talking to one of my favorite jocks, when a very non-athletic boy, about 16, sat outside my office. I had interviewed him earlier in the year, had met with him once after that, but for all practical purposes, he had just gone off my radar.

When I finished talking to the young man in my office, Ronald came in. That’s where the life lesson began for me.

He had been sitting outside my office listening to the laughter, joking and serious talk I was having with the other youngster and he said to me, “Mr. Fultz, I wish you would spend time with me like you do with Fred.” I was stunned; in fact I was speechless, — stammering and sputtering.

Then he said, “Don’t you think I deserve as much of your time as you spend with him? Is it because I can’t play ball?”

That day I vowed to Ronald and to myself I would never let myself fall into this appalling trap of failing to treat all people with the same dignity and respect as I do another. Yes, Ronald, you did deserve the same care and consideration that I gave to the others — please know that the most valuable moment in my life during those days was the Golden Rule life lesson you taught me.

It is so easy to be kind to those with whom we identify, but the real test of character is when we can show that same respect and kindness to those who may disagree with us or may not be naturally attractive to us.

I truly value the life lesson this 16year-old boy taught me many years ago. It’s another reason it’s so heartwarming to see examples day-to-day in the Arizona Interfaith Movement where, in our events and programs, we genuinely work at encouraging people of all faiths, races and political ideals to respect one another and care for them as you would one whose ideals, faith or race is the same as yours.

The Rev. Larry Fultz is executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement.

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