This incident got me thinking about other acts of thoughtlessness. My mother taught us that we should always wipe our feet carefully on a doormat when entering a house, store or mall. But this happens rarely today.
Last week at the mall, I held the door open for a young man who sailed through without a nod or a thank you. My mouth hung open in astonishment.
When we drive in a city, which I won’t identify, I find myself lapsing into aggressive mode. I soon join the horde driving as if chased by a demon. That is, until Mary Helen reminds me to be civil and not let other drivers determine my mood. Okay.
How about store clerks—or is that term politically incorrect? Have you been totally ignored by sales persons who chat with each other or are engrossed by their cell phones?
Do people around you say please and thank you? When was the last time you sent or received a thank you note for a gift or a kindness? Are you or your grandchildren absorbed by your cell phones during meals…or have you declared the dining table a no-cell phone zone?
Do you find conversation one-sided? Do friends and acquaintances regale you with their latest adventure, trip or operation without giving any thought to engaging you in the conversation? Nowadays, few people express interest in the lives of others, despite the fact that everyone has an interesting story or an urgent concern. Monopolizing conversations is another reflection of deteriorating manners.
Actually, all societies could be measured by the degree of civility with which its members treat each other. Great societies are mannerly. Great societies breed thoughtfulness. Great societies inculcate respect for others.
Good manners are the practical outworking of a determination to, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” Jesus left us a pattern expressed by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5).
Fortunately, we live in a fairly polite and thoughtful small town. Most people thank us for holding open a door for them. Cars often pause to let us cross the street if we are walking, or join an orderly queue of cars on a street if we are driving.
I was reminded by the gum on my shoe to deny my innate propensity to think only of myself. As a selfish teen, I might have laughed at my parents’ attempts to train me to be mannerly. But they were right.
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