Lifestyle Choices: The Lost Art of Courtesy
I had a strange thing happen to me the other night. I needed to make a quick run to the neighborhood Mom& Pop (store to those not living in the United States) and as I was approaching the front door so too was a young woman in her early twenties. She smiled, I smiled (that in itself was strange, having someone smile at me in public) and as I went to open the door for her she scooted in front of me and held it open for me! Can you say OMG?
I was so astounded that I couldn’t wait to tell Bev about it when I got home and God bless Bev, she understood immediately why I was so excited. I had just witnessed someone practicing the Lost Art of Courtesy! What a precious gift that young woman gave me. If we value the worth of something, like gold, by its supply and demand factor, then that act of courtesy was easily worth thousands of dollars for courteousness is in high demand and in very short supply.
Why is that? What has happened to courtesy in the United States? I can’t ask that question for other parts of the world because I have never been abroad but I most certainly can ask it of citizens in my own country. What has happened to common courtesy?
A TRIP BACK IN TIME
The son of Dale L. Holland was raised to be courteous. There was no choice in the matter and certainly no discussion about the pros and cons. Little Billy Holland was going to be a courteous human being and that’s all there was to say about that matter.
I was taught to say thank you and please, not only at home but also when out in public. I was taught to hold the door open for someone when entering a building and I was taught to say excuse me if I accidentally bumped into someone. The education seemed to be overwhelming at times as I was expected to smile at strangers and have a friendly word to say to others and it was explained quite clearly to me that if I expected people to listen to me then the least I could do was listen, really listen, to them.
Lending a helping hand was a biggie for my parents. If I saw someone struggling in a parking lot with packages it was my responsibility to offer to help them and yes, if a little old lady needed help crossing the street that was my responsibility as well. A sense of community was pounded into my brain, the concept that we are all in this together and we are only as strong as our weakest link.
Be kind to others, lend a helping hand to others, not because you think you might get something in return but because that is what human beings should do for each other.
Those lessons and many others were taught to me by my parents and other relatives and I admit, early on I couldn’t understand why they made it such a big deal. Of course, as I got older they were more than happy to explain it to me. My dad, especially, would talk to me about respect for others, that respect should be given to my elders because they had paid their dues and I hadn’t, but also respect should be given simply because a human being deserved respect and I certainly was no better than anyone else.
I asked my dad once….what about me? Who is going to be courteous to me? Who is going to show me respect? The answer was a simple one: we do not give respect and act courteous because we expect reciprocity. We do those things because one, it makes us feel good and two, because the Law of Karma Is in play. Karma I asked? What the heck is Karma? Dad simply said what goes around comes around and I would have to live a bit longer in order to see the results of Karma.
NOW I HAVE DEFINITELY LIVED A BIT LONGER
So yes, now, today, I understand. What goes around comes around and it definitely applies to the subject of courtesy. Before I get into that, though, let me ask you this: why is courtesy in such short supply in this country? What happened to the lessons we learned as children? When did it become alright to quit saying please and thank you? When did rudeness become acceptable? When did we decide that boorish behavior was okay?
Do you know how many times I have purchased something at a store and the clerk has not even said thank you to me for the purchase? Do you know how many times I have held a door open for someone and they haven’t said anything in return or how many times someone has gone in ahead of me and let the door close before I got to it? Do you know how many times I have seen people laugh at the homeless or make rude remarks to them and how many times I have had teenagers push by me to get somewhere just a few seconds faster?
When did this become acceptable behavior? Why has it become acceptable behavior?
I’m sure the reasons are numerous and I doubt seriously that I can name them all. I have no doubt that part of the answer lies in the amount of problems that people have bearing down on them. It seems the economy is designed nowadays so that the middle class or heaven forbid the lower classes will never make ends meet and will always be living paycheck to paycheck. I’m sure those economic struggles have something to do with the grumpy moods and lack of civility.
I’m sure there are other sociological reasons from an increase in dysfunctional families to the lack of supervision and proper parenting to the negative influence of the media. If you need an excuse it is never hard to find one and if you need an explanation as an excuse you need not search for long.
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH
The main problem with excuses is that they diminish responsibility. If we can start from the very basic premise that we would all like to be treated with respect and if we further state that a proper moral compass is to treat others as we would want to be treated then we can only draw one conclusion: we should be courteous to others simply because we would like others to be courteous to us….because it is the right thing to do.
As with all “right things to do” we should do them because they are….are you ready for it….because they are right. I don’t know about you but I like doing nice things for others because it makes me feel good inside. I like being courteous because it makes me a little bit closer to being the type of person I want to be.
I also like being courteous because, as I earlier stated, I believe in karma and I believe that if I treat others with respect and courtesy that eventually it will all come back around and I will be treated in a like manner AND good things will happen to me because I lived a loving life.
Listen, we have serious problems in the world today. We have “HOLY CRAP” problems in the world today and they don’t seem to be getting any better. At times I think the entire moral fiber of our civilization is disappearing and I wonder, in my weaker moments, how it is all going to turn around and get better.
That’s when the words of my dad come back to me. That is when I realize that the only possible solution has to be love. Each one of us has to change this world. Each one of us has to accept a bit of responsibility and step up and be the person we were born to be.
Courtesy….respect….compassion….love of others….these all have to start with me. I cannot stand on the sidelines and piss and moan about the state of the world if I am not willing to step up and show my humanity. My parents were absolutely correct. I am not courteous because I expect something in return. I am courteous because I should be as a member of this species. I do not treat others with respect because there is a reward waiting for me. I do it because I should as a member of this race.
If it does not start with me then who will it start with? If I am not willing then I should have no expectations of others.
I challenge each one of you reading this to do one extra courteous act today, one seemingly insignificant act of kindness with no hope of being repaid. Say thank you and please more often; help others more often. Be grateful and loving and compassionate and…….be human!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
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