By Dorothy Knight Burchett
Back in the ’80s, our family watched a sitcom in the evenings, titled Perfect Strangers.There was this young man named Larry Appleton, who lived in an apartment in Chicago, whose cousin from Mypos, Balki Bartokomous, suddenly appears and moves in with him. They have cultural differences that challenge their new living arrangements. One of the customs they both enjoyed, however, was the dance of joy. They joined hands, did some kicks to either side, while singing, “Di, di, di, di. Hey, hey, hey, hup!” Then Larry leaped into the arms of Balki.
It was at that time that I worked for a supervisor who was bi-polar. It was a challenge for me and my co-workers to work under his supervision. In his depressive state, he behaved as though he was worthless and everybody hated him. In his manic state, he was a tyrant and everybody walked softly in his presence. He was also opinionated and people were afraid to express one that was different.
On his milder days, I was able to break through the exterior and develop a somewhat deeper relationship on a personal level. I could express views then that I couldn’t express at other times.
One day, our supervisor was in a particularly aggressive mood. He was screaming at everyone, slamming books on his desk and accusing us of things that never happened. We didn’t say a word, but kept our heads down and focused on our work. Finally, he got his belongings together and stomped out of the door to keep an appointment.
Jonathon and I looked at each other; got up from our desks; met in the middle of the room and did a modified dance of joy. We finished our dance and returned to our desk and our work—just seconds before our supervisor stomped back into the room to retrieve something he had forgotten. Jonathon and I felt as though we had been saved from certain death.
It wasn’t long after that that our supervisor was fired. I hope he got help with the bi-polar disorder.
The supervisor who took his place was opinionated, too, but more mild-mannered. Another person joined the staff who shared his views on controversial issues. Mine were different and they encouraged me to share them, but I felt intimidated by them. It was their outspokenness that made me reticent.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people felt safe to say what is in their heart and mind?There’s a vintage country song that says, “If the world had a front porch like we did back then, we’d still have our quarrels, but we’d all be friends.” Talking things over, rather than being afraid of intimidation or retribution sounds like a good idea. We can have different ideas and opinions and still be friends.
After all, the only thing we all want is to be loved and appreciated.