Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Something Uncommon
Common Courtesy
"Little blue bird"
2005

I had a conversation with my husband the other day about all the violent acts that seem so common in our everyday lives. Just look at the newspaper headlines…students shooting students, drivers hitting walkers, men killing men over anything and everything. It seems we have no boundaries any more and angry violence has become a common cultural communications tool. Scary.

I mused that five decades ago, we still had crime, wars and car accidents but there was a difference. There was still a small little peaceful oasis available to everyone in their everyday lives. A little thing called common courtesy. And I believe that this small thing might just be a way to bring about a little cultural revolution toward peaceful understanding every day.

Ok, for those of you who have just pictured yourself donning suits, hats, white gloves and matching handbags…take a breath. I am not calling for a return to the 50’s or replacing halter tops with padded bras or walking shoes with wingtips.

I’m talking about ‘attitude’. How about replacing ‘gangsta’ with respect? How about substituting ‘pushy’ with patience? A smug look with a smile? A rude hand gesture with a wave?

Oh, I know it sounds simplistic…very ‘Happy Days’ and a little too ‘Mayberry’…but a return to old-time values is not what I’m talking about here. I know it’s not going to keep violence from happening, but maybe it just might make everyone’s day a little more peaceful. What I’m talking about is bringing back a little common courtesy from one person to another.

Here are some examples.

You are walking down the street in your own neighborhood, maybe walking your dog. Next time someone passes you, smile and say, “Good morning, afternoon or evening”. Or just nod and say, “Hi”. Or even better, “Hi there. How are you?”

When you enter the mall, how about holding the door open a little for the person behind you, regardless of gender or age? Even better, if you see a parent struggling to get a stroller through the door, why not go over and hold the door for them?

When you’re driving and it’s bumper to bumper, how about letting one car in ahead of you with a friendly wave of your hand. Then, driver of the car being let in, respond with a wave of thanks and a smile. Say someone stopped at a red light, gets distracted and doesn’t notice the light has turned green? Instead of responding with a rude gesture or word, how about a small toot of your horn, a small smile and wave?

Say you’re jogging or biking through the park and you see a couple walking their dog ahead of you taking up the sidewalk…how about calling ahead with, “Hello there, excuse me…I’m passing on your right/left…thank you!” Or you’re jogging with some friends and chatting away across the sidewalk when you see someone approaching you, how about forming a short single line as you pass and saying hi or waving? You can go back to your talking formation after you pass.

The phone rings and it’s one of those ‘sales calls’. How about saying, “Hello, I understand you get paid to sell things over the phone and I respect your right to earn money. Please respect my right to make the choice not to buy anything over the phone and please take me off your calling list. Thank you. Good bye.”

You are shopping and someone drops something on the floor. How about offering to get help for them? Or there’s someone in line behind you with just one item…how about letting them go ahead of you especially if they have little children.

These are small things, yes. But I really believe that bringing back these little, common courtesies can make a big impact. Who knows, just a small smile from you today might change someone’s angry attitude just enough to prevent another violent headline in tomorrow’s paper. Even if that sounds a bit far fetched, try this, doesn’t it feel better to smile at someone? The best thing? A little goes a long way and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

I know that courtesy from one person to another is uncommon today. But you can change that and so can I. Just say ‘hello’ and start making common courtesy from the past, today’s newest communications tool.

2 comments:

Janet Grace Riehl said...

Susan, the demise of courtesy and wondering how to bring it back--how to connect--is a topic dear to my heart. I'm so glad you brought it up, and I think your straight-forward suggestions are very good examples for how human connection and civility can be maintained within the islands of our personal presence.

Susan GT said...

Janet,
Thanks for your comment. I hope that in my own small ways I can help bring a little positive interaction back into our stressed lives.
Susan