I met Ralph in the 3rd grade.
My Dad had just married my step-mother, and we moved from Phoenix to Tempe. Ralph was one of my new classmates.
Ralph’s dad worked at the university. He managed the fledgling PBS TV station there. And he was a serious, collegiate liberal.
You remember the TV show Family Ties? Michael J. Fox shot to stardom as the conservative son of liberal parents, the dad managing the local PBS station?
Well, Ralph wasn’t he. But, we became friends, anyway.
He was liberal, outspoken, political, a rabble-rouser. In the 3rd Grade.
My parents were fairly conservative, my Dad more so than my Step-Mom. Ralph would have seen them as Nazis.
In the 6th Grade, Ralph organized a formal protest against Mrs. Wells. Mrs. Wells treated the girls and boys differently. It was, “Be quiet, Susan.” versus “Shut up, Ralph!”
Ralph got us to sign a petition regarding unfair treatment. We all thought we were going to be expelled. But we weren’t.
Mrs. Wells left the next year, after a heart attack. I’m convinced Ralph and his politics contributed to her ill health.
His rabble-rousing skills continued through Junior High and High School. Ralph organized protests for everything from school dress codes to the Vietnam War. In one year, he went from a flat-top to shoulder-length hair.
But, even though we differed politically, we remained friends.
A dear friend recently labelled me a hero. One of the reasons was I was willing to listen to other opinions. Even though I question her label, I guess that means I’m not an ideologue. And this is a good thing.
I learned this from Ralph.
A few years later, I ran into Ralph at the university. He had completely eschewed politics, and was studying anthropology. He’d had enough of the games of politics. And seemed much healthier.
Take the time to listen to other’s views. One may still disagree, and argue the issues, and remain friends. Take it from Ralph.