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Theodore Roosevelt

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Inherited Vices

Yesterday, New York City ran between hot and cold for me. It’s February, but the weather was trying to act more like March going into a warm April. Instead of my NYC winter uniform of a black coat made out of nothing natural, a fur or fake fur hate and gloves so warm your hands sweat when you take them off, I wore a  light weight camel colored coat and a stylish fedora. I felt good when I left the house int he sunshine. I felt even better when I made it through physical therapy without screaming and got compliments on my ensemble as I walked down the street.

Mama would be proud, I thought as I walked down the street. I had inherited her sense of matching colors with style. And while it is not the worse thing one could get from their parents, it brought to mind how we inherit things from our parents and ancestors that we should just leave alone.

My mother is 91  and, bless her, will not leave the house unless her ensemble is properly coordinated. While visiting her last fall she showed me a purse my brother gave her and admonished me to find her a matching hat. I was able to do it before I left Atlanta, but if I hadn’t I would have found one online or in a store and shipped it to her. She is one of the kindest people I know and her kindness makes me want to give. So I inherited a couple of cool ‘vices’ from her. The desire and ability to co-ordinate my wardrobe could  have been one of those things that sent me and my spouse into financial ruin, but my mother also taught me how to shop and save money. So I consider myself luck

But what if you inherit other things from your parents? What if you re-produce their inability to be kind, to be generous? What if your mother is a gossip and you can’t wait to give your friends the low down on the latest dirt you heard? Or how about the young women and men who have been raised in a situation where only certain classes of people are acceptable and you won’t even think about dating below what you perceive are your standards? What if your parents think nothing of name calling and degrading other cultures and you find yourself defaming every ethnic person you meet?

You inherited those vices. sure. That isn’t an excuse. But there is always the possibility of change. You can always be enlightened.

Some years back at a sit down dinner party of about twelve people, the hostess started a conversation on a woman who was at the center of a controversy regarding a minister forsaking his calling. Several of the people at the table blamed the woman, who was a minor at the time. But the hostesses son suggested that we weren’t seeing the entire picture. While others told him that at 21 he was too young to know what he was talking about, I agreed with him.

I was supposedly put in my place when they told me my opinion didn’t count because I didn’t live in their town and was just visiting.

But the young man, who could have carried on his mother’s libelous and mean conversation put them all to shame. “My mother always said to find the good in people. And that is all I want to do.”

Shut up his mother so that someone immediately changed the conversation.

It didn’t change her way of thinking, but it became clear to me and to others, her son fell far from that tree.

You have a choice in the matter of love and hate, kindness and meanness, good and evil. You can step back and take a look at yourself and see if you have been taught to be a way that is not comfortable with you. You can educate yourself to eliminate the inherited vices from your life. It is part of being an adult to make decisions based on your lifestyle and life lessons, not of your life history.

Too much hatred is going on right now with too many excuses. Just because you inherited the information on how to best hate does’t mean you have to follow it.

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Minnette Coleman is a writer, actress and singer born in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of two novels “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” and “No Death by Unknown Hands.” She resides in Harlem, New York and is a member of the Harlem Writers Guild.

1 comment to Inherited Vices

  • Don Frankel

    Hey Minnette where have you been? It’s great to see you post again.

    Getting angry is fine but when it gets to the point of hate, it gets ugly and not worth it. As we grow hopefully we leave behind those things that are just not good for us. We are in the end the things we do and what we write too.

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