Mutual… January 11, 2012


You gotta plant a whole lot of seeds to get a garden. Undoubtedly. It helps if you know what you’re planting and if you try to keep the same seeds in the same row, but now I’m being a little picky. Let’s just return to the concept of mass scattering.

What we all want out of life is a mutual experience. You have to be a real misfit to think that you’re going to travel through your lifespan without having to give up something to someone else. Not only is that selfish, but absolutely ridiculous. Human life is a journey to achieve as much mutual satisfaction as possible.

I like you–you like me. I work with you–you work with me. I compliment you–you compliment me. I enjoy you–you enjoy me.

Life has to be mutual to be good–otherwise you either spend all of your time giving, ending up resentful, or believe your mission is to take, putting yourself in the position of being the villain.  Here’s how I think it works: (1) Everyone deserves a smile. (2) Everyone requires a greeting of acceptance. (3)  Everyone needs a moment of understanding. (4) And finally, everyone craves appreciation.

This is true for me, also. But if I expect the average American worker, who makes minimum wage plus a few quarters,  to extend these courtesies to me simply because I have walked into their establishment and want them to curtail their ego long enough to acquiesce to my needs, I am an absolute idiot. Everybody in America is faulted with one major piece of pending fiasco: we all want to be rich but we aren’t. It makes us act like we’re better than we actually are, puts a chip on our shoulder and causes us to be overly sensitive to the body language and attitudes of others. It’s what creates foolish clashes of personality and presumptuous behavior, promoting strife.

Not for me, folks. When I realize I am going to be staying in an area for a fortnight, I lead with tenderness, mercy, gentleness, interest and curiosity. I also allow myself a bit of self-deprecating humor, to let them know that I don’t take my own concerns too seriously. The minute people are disarmed by my presentation of simplicity, they warm. And frankly, if they don’t, I just don’t return to that establishment. I am fully aware that mutual is what makes the human journey successful–two individuals sharing a common respect for one another.

It’s why most marriages go south. Someone becomes “mother” instead of “lover,” or “daddy” instead of “equal.”

Mutual is what makes life work. But here’s the key: mutual begins with me. I can’t wait for the girl at the McDonald’s counter to awaken from her sleepiness to provide adequate service my way. It is my job, function and purpose to enliven her spirit so that when she sees me coming, a switch goes off in her heart to the open position instead of the closed one.  Likewise, if I don’t express an interest in my bank teller, I shouldn’t anticipate that a friendly greeting will always be awaiting. And if I leave my motel room a mess and fail to give a tip to my hard-working housekeeper, I shouldn’t look for extra mints on my pillow.

America stalls because everybody is waiting for the other person to make the first overture towards excellence. We call it individuality. We call it “standing up for oneself.” We call it self-esteem. But whatever we call it, may I tell you that it does not work and it leaves us standing at a distance, peering at one another in suspicion.

Mutual begins with me. f I want love, I need to manufacture some and carry it around in my knapsack. If I want respect, I need to extend that courtesy to every human worker I meet instead of assuming they’re my servants.

The reason “the meek inherit the earth,” as Jesus said, is that they’re smart enough to realize that if SOMEBODY doesn’t step back for a moment, we will continue to run into each other. If SOMEBODY doesn’t consider the bigger picture, we soon will be vacant of a landscape of possibility. Yes, the meek are the intelligent. They understand that mutual begins with ME. So when I treat the maid at my motel like she’s a real person and not just my personal towel-bearer, it is so much easier for her to desire to be near me, to help me and to want to serve me.

For let me tell you, there is nothing spiritual in the concept of “an eye for an eye.” I understand that three religions in our world have based at least part of their philosophy on this principle, but the notion leaves you victoriously holding someone’s eyeballs in your hand, never having achieved any perspective on what they actually see.

Mutual begins with me. Mutual is not “of Omaha.” It’s about me. And very quickly you will identify the individuals who are merely waiting for courtesy so they can respond in like manner, and the tiny handful out there who are just so bruised and damaged that right now they can’t even respond to a treatment of mercy.

I have enjoyed my stay in southwest Florida, but it’s because I have taken everyone I have met and assumed that they are a field, devoid of seed, and decided to plant my compassion first and see what grows. The best relationships I have in my life are mutual ones. They are the people who respect me because I respected them first, and they don’t lose anything by giving it back my way.

If you’re going to sit around and wait for the world to notice how valuable you are and to give you your props before you extend to them the position they desire, you will find yourself at odds with humanity, holding a darkened view of your brothers and sisters, and having a religious attitude of looking for judgment day more than the mercy-seat of God.

Mutual–let’s do it to each other until we both feel good.

I’ll tell you what … I’ll go first.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

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