We must remember that everyone suffers painful experiences

Jim “Bear” Katona Jr. talks about his RESPECT posters at the Richmond Library on February 7, 2019. Katona’s acronym RESPECT stands for, “Remember Everyone Suffers Painful Events, Communicate Tenderly.” (Photo by Maggie Loesch)

Sometime in 2014, I became aware that respect was lacking in a lot of things that we do as a society. In a reflective moment of prayer and meditation, I made an intention to form a deeper understanding of respect.

Almost instantly, the acronym came to me of: Remember Everyone Suffers Painful Events, Communicate Tenderly. After further prayer and thought, I changed “events” to “experiences,” to be more inclusive. I used crayons to bubble-letter the words on a piece of paper.

The saying represents my outlook on my life and relationships with others. I live my life with the intention to nurture and empower the divine child within. This has multiple meanings that can be interpreted in different ways.

A divine child is something that I see we have inside of us — the spirit and energy that connects us to each other, or something greater. Sometimes, I am called to nurture my own divine child. Sometimes, I am called to nurture another’s. Often, I am called to nurture both.

These are underlying beliefs I have held since my early childhood. At 18 months old, I had a medical episode where I went into convulsions. I stopped breathing and had no heartbeat when my mother handed me over to the emergency room folks at Women’s Medical Hospital. I have no conscious recollection of the event, but I’ve always had an underlying sense that we are here for a purpose and that the Creator is bigger than any and all religious organizations.

Now, when I focus on demonstrating respect and communicating tenderly, I focus on communicating without judgment.

A lot of times, people have a sense of entitlement — thinking we know how others should or can deal with something. The other person doesn’t always need us to solve their problems for them or to tell them what do, so this way of thinking can be oppressive. It does not give a person the opportunity to grow.

When we communicate tenderly, we take the time to understand each other’s needs and expectations. We don’t have to solve their problems or even agree with them. Clear communication releases others of the burden of trying to figure things out.

But communicating tenderly is a lot of work, and I’m a lot better at it now than I was when I was younger. It takes patience, and one of the biggest obstacles to this is time. The world demands so much of people’s time.

In 2017, The Philadelphia Assembled printed me 150 11-by-17-inch copies of this saying. I gave all except for three away, which I then used to make more (smaller) copies that I continue to hand out today. I now print my flyers at the Peter Bressi Senior Center in Frankford where I lead a group meditation and relaxation session on Monday afternoons.

I engage others by offering them the flyer, inviting them into a conversation and being open and welcoming. The other day, I gave a man one of these flyers at a coffee shop and he asked me if he could have another one for his daughter.

I also try to greet every person who comes within my scope of contact. I know I have an impact because when I go to the supermarket, church, or any other place, people come over and smile — they remember who I am.

I want to be a man of influence in a good way.


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Editor: Claire Wolters / Story Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese / Translator: Kristine Aponte

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