Lesson from the Past. Dr. Don Levinthal was chairman of the Psychology Department when I attended Washburn University in the early 1960’s. In one of his lectures, he told a story of the power of conditioning attitudes. The story left an indelible impression on me.
He was a clinical psychologist. In addition to his faculty work at Washburn, he consulted at the Menninger Clinic. At that time, the Clinic was one of the leading psychiatric hospitals in the world.
Don was raised in Tennessee in the 1930’s. In other words, he was raised in the South in times of open prejudice. He had worked hard to understand and overcome the prejudice. To that end his best friend was a Black psychiatrist who worked full-time at the Menninger Clinic.
They were neighbors, their children openly went in and out of each other’s homes, and the families shared holiday meals. Despite the closeness, Don’s past had power. He shared his story in the hopes we would never underestimate the power of conditioning.
His story occurred in the summer. He thought his prejudice was behind him. He had overcome his upbringing. Then he took his family for a swim at the Topeka public pool.
He changed clothes, rinsed and went out to get in the pool. When he started to step into the pool, he noticed there were Blacks in the pool. He had an involuntary reflex reaction. He overcame the reaction but was wise enough to acknowledge it.
He used his experience for a teaching moment and I learned a valuable lesson.
Conditioning applies to everyone. The lesson is not a one-way lesson. The lesson is about human behavior and not white behavior. All humans have conditioned attitudes. We should do everything we can to develop conditioning of positive attitudes in everyone.
The evidence is clear — if people of different cultures work together on an equal footing toward a positive goal, the people have less prejudice toward each other. What that tells me is — in our churches and synagogues we should look to create ways for cooperative work toward a positive goal with people of other cultures. Common mission work, common study opportunities, even common worship experiences are three opportunities.
If you have any of those experiences or have others to suggest, I would like to hear about them.
Tears of Joy. Since my stroke, I cry much easier. My new approach of reading good news each day has meant I often shed tears of joy.
For example, the site Sunny Skyze brought tears on more than one occasion this week. Some headlines:
Couple donated $55 gift cards to 322 employees of their local hospital.
Police officer pulls elderly man over for speeding, then helps him set up his television.
Young men push elderly woman in broken scooter home in the rain.
3-year-old Texas boy found in the woods after missing 4 days.
JV softball pitcher pitches for the opposing team after their pitcher gets sick.
Inmates at California prison get college degrees.
I started this blog with an example of conditioning of our attitudes. If the only news people read is negative then negative attitudes are sure to follow.
My tears are helping me be more joyful and less angry.
Jeny Update. One of my favorite words is penultimate. I just like how it sounds. It means the next to the last item in a sequence.
This week I like how it sounds and what it means. Jeny got her penultimate chemotherapy treatment. Five down and one to go!!
My work on my essay has been helped by having a deadline but having the small sections at the end of the blog is too disjointed for readers to easily follow. I will keep working on the essay until I have more substantial sections and then ask you to give me your ideas. Thanks to those who have followed the initial work. I look forward to your future ideas.