In The Pigeon with the Ruby Collar — a fairy tale Marti wrote in anticipation of the birth of our first grandchild, Jocelyn Anne — it comes to light that Princess Jocelyn Anne has magical healing powers. Because of this, many come from far and wide to receive her healing touch. Every evening she comes down from her room in the castle tower to meet and touch the people who have gathered during the day. By the time the Princess has seen the last person, she is pale and exhausted and has to be carried back up to her room in the tower by the King.
Some are allowed to visit her during the day in her room in the tower, but there are specific instructions for those who do. Following is Marti’s and my favorite piece of her writing. It is a call for something currently missing in our culture — a deep sense of reverence and respect.
While Princess Jocelyn Anne is in her room in the tower, everyone who visits over the age of 11 who doesn’t approach those stairs with a little reverence, who does not first ask one of Princess Jocelyn Anne’s attendants if they may pass, who does not find themselves quieted on the way, who does not adjust their sensibility on the way up to the mysterious purpose of that room, who does not wait in the outer alcove until a sentry looks up at them and invites them in, must be stopped at, or returned to, the second landing of the tower stair. I have put two chairs there, and some appropriate reading and an interesting globe. The children, of course, can play with some tin soldiers or something else quietly by the window.
Reverence and respect are common courtesies rarely extended in our culture today. There is a disrespect bordering on rudeness that is prevalent in society, and it is often aimed at those who are different or who believe differently. Christians must lead the way in re-establishing a reverence for all human beings regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference. We are all made in the image of God and that alone makes us all sacred. It makes us all kings and queens, princes and princesses.
The late Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), began his commencement address at Marquette University in 2001 with the following: “For a long time I wondered why I felt like bowing when people showed their appreciation for the work that I’ve been privileged to do. What I’ve come to understand is that we who bow are probably — whether we know it or not — acknowledging the presence of the eternal: we’re bowing to the eternal in our neighbor. You see, I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does. So, in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.”
These words sound foreign to our sensibilities almost 15 years later. Mr. Rogers has disappeared from our screens with nothing to replace his neighborhood. Our neighborhoods are isolated and aloof or rampant with gangs who have no respect whatsoever for life. Disrespect and lack of civility is more likely what we encounter every day as political fighting and social intolerance seem to have gained the upper hand in society. In this hostile environment, you can make a huge difference today simply by treating everyone you meet as royalty. We need to, in Marti’s words, “adjust our sensibility on the way up to the mysterious purpose” of God’s creation in those around us. If we can’t do this, maybe we should stop at or go back to the second landing and finger the globe there which reminds us of a planet filled with diverse individuals, every one of whom is loved by God.