Sunday, October 2, 2022

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Around the Campfire: Old-timer offers newbie all the wrong advice

The cooler evening temperatures prompt many folks to gather at night around a campfire. I enjoy meeting and visiting with people from all over the country. It’s always interesting to learn their life stories—the ups and downs that many of us have in common as we live our lives. Last evening, however, I was dumbstruck when a self-proclaimed “RV old-timer” (age 35, or so) began informing an RV newbie about all the different kinds of fellow campers they can expect to see as they begin their travels.

Typical RVers?

“Well, you’ve got the Down-and-Outs who are here year-round. No explanation needed. Then, you got your Rednecks with their four dogs—two in heat to keep things interesting. And you’ve got your Hoity-toits who have to have their entire fancy manse plus a prissy garage along with ‘em every time they (air quotes) go camping. Then ….” I stopped listening.

Seeing red!

I’m not sure what made me the most upset—to hear someone categorize, shame, and ridicule other campers, or the fact that I was so shocked by the conversation that I couldn’t find my voice to speak up. Hubby, however, listened attentively in silence as the “old-timer” bloviated. When the guy finally came up for air, Hubby said, “Huh. I’m just happy to have met so many great folks. If you strip away the external, you’ll find we’re all pretty much the same on the inside.” The campfire conversation turned to decidedly more positive talk from that point on.

Walking back to our RV from the campfire, I thanked Hubby for making his observation out loud. And as I was about to berate the “old-timer” for his characterizations, Hubby reminded me, “The guy probably has had life circumstances that we aren’t privy to.”

A surprising realization

Now that I have had some time to rewind the entire episode in my head, I realize that I was just as guilty as “old-timer.” I was judging him for being so judgmental! I, too, needed to be reminded that “We’re all pretty much the same on the inside.”

Childhood lessons

The entire incident reminded me of a childhood memory. When you point at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. When I notice what I consider a deficiency in someone else, I need to keep in mind my own shortcomings.

Another childhood memory was something my dad said: “Before using your mouth, engage your brain.” (I’m sure the words didn’t originate with him, but it certainly made an impact on me.) The way Dad said it wasn’t a putdown. Not at all. Dad simply cautioned my younger self to think before I speak. Once the words are out in the open, you cannot bring them back. Ever.

A lesson for today’s society?

It seems our society is devolving faster than ever before. Thinking before speaking doesn’t happen as often as it should and as a result, people are hurt. Lots of people. And that hurt often causes the knee-jerk reaction that escalates our verbal battles. Don’t you wish we could somehow dial it back a bit? The rhetoric, I mean. Imagine a world where creative, constructive conversations were the norm. Think of all the problems that might be solved, the suffering relieved, and the relationships restored.

My mom used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’m starting to think that her sentiment could use a bit of editing. Maybe to something like this: “If you can’t say something nice, at least say something thoughtful.” Nothing changes unless we speak up. But our words need to be sprinkled with kindness and thoughtfulness. Oh, and it’s good to remember: We’re all pretty much the same on the inside.

Read last week’s Around the Campfire: Personal rights vs. doing what’s right when camping.

##RVT1039

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Michael
7 months ago

As my father, who loved cars and anything associated with them used to say, “Caution, be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear”.

Virginia
7 months ago

While his manners certainly can be questioned, his observations may be a little too accurate for comfort. I am still waiting for someone to develop the RVers Style/Personality Inventory. I’ll bet each of those “types” would show up somewhere. LOL

Bob Shon
7 months ago

Gail, I didn’t know we had the same parents ! When did you change your name ? I don’t remember a Gail !!
Those words of wisdom that I rolled my young eyes at have spewed from my own mouth on more than one occasion. Now my grandkids roll their eyes while I chuckle to myself !

Gail
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob Shon

Me, too, Bob!

Karen Grace
7 months ago

Thanks for the reminder of these great platitudes…I work on curbing my judgmental nature.

KellyR
7 months ago

I came home from first grade crying and my mom asked what had happened. I don’t remember what it was but someone had evidently said something to me to make me cry. My mom said, “Just don’t put your feelings out there to where someone can step on them.” Ever since then when someone says something that I don’t like, or is offensive, I just feel sorry for them. It is just that easy. I’ve never been in a fight or argument in my life. (Isn’t it nuts how just one sentence can help form your personality?)

Spike
7 months ago

Gail, in all my years I have only ever remembered one poem. My dear mother gave it to me long ago as I tend to be quite impatient and yes, judgemental.

It goes along well with your thoughts above:

THE DREAM

I dreamed death came the other night and heaven’s gates swung wide;

And with kindly grace an angel ushered me inside;

There, to my astonishment, stood folks I’d known on earth!

Some I’d judged unfit, of small worth;

Indignant words rose to my lips, but never were set free;

For every face showed some surprise! Not ONE expected me.

Gail
7 months ago
Reply to  Spike

I love it! Thanks for sharing!

Richard
7 months ago

The old adage about learning more by listening than talking. I try this a lot. You learn much about people by listening, good and bad.
I use the broken nose example a lot. Before there was a lawyer behind every tree, and you could hide behind a keyboard, you could get your nose broken by saying things you shouldn’t.

travelingjw
7 months ago

One lesson I learned while younger and “trying to prove myself” was to watch what happened when I was talking and someone interrupted me. I learned to not say another word, at first. I learned to wait and observe if anyone was interested in hearing me continue what I was saying before being interrupted. It was very humbling to find out how often no one cared. It made me learn the value of thinking about what I was talking, was I adding something that the listener was interested in hearing.

Richard
7 months ago
Reply to  travelingjw

That most often happens with my wife.

Neal Davis
7 months ago

Great observation; thank you!

Cat
7 months ago

Gail, my mom said the same thing…always followed by the words ‘be kind’. My mom was the teacher of manners in our family and she taught tolerance, respect of others, and most of all, kindness. ‘What the world needs now’… is all of these things.

David
7 months ago

in our travels, being FT for couple of years, we have camped all over the West and have met all different folks.
only had 1 issue but most everyone has been cordial, nice and very friendly and we have no complaints.
as for the KMS, lol, being Irish I have not figured that out yet.
But at 70 its getting easier lol.
Happy camping

Uncle Swags
7 months ago

The old timer was correct in his observations. People need to learn to not take everything personal because it is rarely if ever “about them”. Learn to laugh and especially at your self. Don’t take yourself too seriously, I don’t.

Pete Morris
7 months ago

Nice reminder, Thanks

friz
7 months ago

I find this is gossip. “Did you hear what so and so said?”

Bonnie
7 months ago

Thank you for the wonderful reminder! Before I retired my days were full of in person meetings (pre Covid). Early in my career I was very eager to add my two cents at every opportunity. Then I eventually learned the hard way that it wasn’t my most endearing trait. At some point I started writing KMS at the top of my note pad It really helped. KMS = Keep Mouth Shut !

Mike Whelan
7 months ago

Yup, be nice, life is not easy for anyone.

Rock & Tina
7 months ago

We’ve all been “frustrated” by inconsiderate campers. It seems the “RV old-timer” was using this group campfire setting to vent those frustrations. On another day, at another time he may have kept his frustrations to himself.

Bill T
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Gail.

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