Glass Half Full: Being polite is not a sign of weakness
August 9, 2017
There are those who contend that common sense is not nearly as widespread as it used to be. One could say the same pertains to common courtesy.
Whether this is a function of increased messages that we need to take care of ourselves — to put ourselves first — or not, I have no idea, but I believe the world would be a better place were we all to take a big breath and be a little bit nicer to each other. Such would be consistent with my philosophy toward world peace: be kind to each other and hope it spreads.
Taking care of one's self and taking care of others need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, I discovered long ago that the best antidote for feeling sorry for one's self is to look around at the lives of others. Be grateful for the blessings I sometimes take for granted — one of which is living in a small town in a beautiful setting.
The best way for me to get myself out of a funk is to find a reason to compliment someone. Something as small as noticing and remarking upon a child's cheerful greeting, anybody's recent haircut, a door held open for me generally elicits the kind of response that actually makes me feel better.
Years ago, there was a story in The Washington Post that shared thoughts from various people about what would deter them from entertaining the notion of a second date with anyone. The responses were frequently humorous, sometimes shocking, and always related to courtesy in some form.
The one I remember most clearly was the woman who noted her blind date for the evening refused to roll down his window more than a crack for a gas station attendant filling his tank. She recognized that reluctance as a lack of respect and courtesy — and apparently the evening went downhill from that point.
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So what are some of the courtesies that I notice when they occur and somewhat wistfully hope will become more common? That wave of acknowledgement when someone lets you into a gap in the traffic. Creating a gap in the traffic that someone can acknowledge with the aforementioned wave.
Holding the door for whomever follows — male, female, old, young. Picking up something that someone else has dropped, even if the person seems capable of doing so on his or her own. Thanking the person who held open the door or picked up whatever you dropped. A smile, nod, and verbal greeting when encountering others on a trail or beach or sidewalk. In New York City, doing such might be a risk, not in Incline Village. Using turn signals.
Our worlds, large and small, become better places when we find as many ways as possible to say, "Please," "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "I apologize." In my studied opinion, such expressions are never a sign of weakness and always a sign of courtesy. Let's make them more common.
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.