Lewis Wednesday

Mama be Sweet

Whenever I left my mother’s home, and we are talking a period of over forty years, she would always end her goodbyes with these two words: “Be sweet.”

When I was a child on my way to a friend’s birthday party, I suppose that meant not to stick my finger in the cake or do a lot of whining and crying. In my teen years it meant not to steal any hubcaps. As an adult, I guess now she was beseeching me not to rob a liquor store, engage in any insider trading, and to go out amongst them each day with a smile and agreeable disposition.

I can’t recall sticking my finger into too many birthday cakes. I never stole a hubcap. Not one.  I’ve never robbed anything nor have I engaged in much of any kind of trading that was profitable.

But that other stuff—the daily smile, the agreeable disposition —well, I’ve had my failures.
I notoriously have not been sweet to such individuals as waiters and waitresses I’ve deemed slow or unable to service correctly what I considered to be the simplest of orders. Many a rental car clerk has known my verbal wrath, not to mention motel housekeepers who bang on my door too quickly after the first crow of morning, and people I don’t know who address me as “buddy.”

Yet, my mother’s words, so simple, were so implicit: Be sweet.

We have recognized the terror that is the violence amongst us today. The drive by shootings. Another kid was shot dead in the school. The yellow police line tape and pools of drying blood on a mean street on the eleven o’clock news.

The money we will spend, the hours we will study and discuss in an effort to find a solution.

But isn’t it right there in Miss Christine’s words—Be sweet? We aren’t sweet. The truth is we don’t honor sweet. We don’t even like sweet. Sweet is weak. Women go to classes to learn not to be sweet.

Men. We’ve got an entire generation of young toughs out there who are drunk and dying on their own testosterone. Being sweet in that group can get you killed. It’s a manhood thing. An Atlanta Falcons football player, Andre Rison, decides somebody has challenged his manhood outside an Atlanta nightclub. So he goes to his car and gets his gun. There’s this “dis” thing. It is street talk for “disrespect.” I’ve got this big gun here. Respect me or I’ll shoot you.

No. No. Be sweet.

Be kind and gentle. Be tolerant. Be forgiving and slow to anger.

Be tender and be able to cry. Be kind to old people and dogs.

Be loving. Be tender. Share. Don’t pout. Don’t be so loud. Hold a puppy. Kiss a hand. Put your arms around a frightened child.

Make an outstanding play and don’t do The King Tut Butt Strut to bring attention to yourself and point to the inadequacies of the vanquished.

Be Sweet. The wonders that might do. The wonders that just might do. I can still hear you, Mama.


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