Tell Me

Tell Me, by Shel Silverstein, is one of my favourite children’s poems. Poems and stories for children are often much more than they initially seem,  and Silverstein had a real talent for revealing wisdom and deep truths in an amusing and unpretentious manner.

Tell me, please tell me, that I have all these wonderful attributes. I want to, I need to, hear it spoken by someone else. I am sure these attributes deserve your recognition, that they are the truth… and of course when you tell me, I will believe you.

You know what you want me to tell you, but how can I tell, either what you want to hear, or whether that is, indeed the truth? How do we know, ultimately, the truth about our own character, let alone the character of others, no matter how long we have known them, or how much we have been told?

How can we tell the character of another person, especially in the middle of a political media campaign? Is it revealed by their biography, the story of their formative years, their education and activities? Is it revealed by their achievements as adults, their business resume or academic curriculum vitae, their contributions to the economy or society in which they have worked? Is it revealed by their intentions, their promises, their dreams; by what they are determined to accomplish with the rest of their lives?

My mother tried to teach me to avoid judgement, to accept people as they are, to love unconditionally. She was a starry-eyed idealist, in deep denial about some of the harsh realities life threw her way. I suppose it worked for her some of the time. I see the wisdom in the goal, but have not been able to emulate it. Circumstances often demand choice, and those choices depend on our observation and evaluation of character, especially when we have to decide about relationships, employment, business dealings, and political decisions.

This week I have had the opportunity to watch a PBS documentary, two hours long, examining the candidacies of Romney and Obama. Then there was the Vice-Presidential debate. We are invited to compare, to judge, to  decide.

The PBS documentary on Frontline is embedded below, but before you watch it, consider reading the article by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Leadership Begins with Character is essay #34 on the 90 Days, 90 Reason blog… there are lots of good political articles here. If you keep renewing the link, there will be a new entry every day until the election.


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