Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Manners, Courtesy & Kindness

Good morning my friends, I hope that today finds you well. There is much to be done today so I decided the best place to start was to share some words with you. There will be nothing prophetic written today; no masterpiece in literature to move the world; no scientific presentation that will shake it. No, today I want to touch briefly on a very small, but important subject: manners.

Manners. We all have them, or at least most of us. Our parents spent many an hour an in attempt to instill in us some basic level of courtesy and respect in how to treat others. You know what I'm talking about: say 'Thank You', hold open a door, say 'Please', wait your turn, allow others their turn, etc., etc., etc. You know the kinds of things I mean; the little things we each do to provide some level of kindness and civility to others. Having good manners is important when living amongst others.

My parents taught me a whole list of manners. I could sit here and name them off one by one and give you many a good reason for following or considering each one but that would take far too long and that these kindnesses are so natural to me, I would no doubt omit some. No. I don't want to tell you what good manners are, I think you already know. The reason we're talking about manners today, as inconsequential as they may seem at times, is their importance and the effects they have on other people when used; or even worse, not used.

The outcome of someone's day may depend on you. Have you ever had a bad day? Have you ever had a sad day? Sure you have. Now, can you think of a time when you were having one of those and someone's courtesy caught you so completely off guard that you suddenly found yourself happy? Or that worry was somehow relieved, if only temporary? I hope so; it has happened to me many times. In reverse to that, have you ever been having a great day and someone's poor manners or ignorance instantly vaporizes your joyfulness and turns it into anger or spite? That has happened to me as well.

Good manners are this easy.
This is the importance of good manners, courtesy and kindness. It is very easy in our modern world to separate yourself, alienate yourself, from the rest of society. You can very easily isolate yourself and claim your individuality as reason enough for not caring about the collective. I am here to remind you that you cannot afford to live in this mindset. Your actions affect others and the actions of others affect you: emotionally, mentally and physically. Demonstrating positive emotion, even in the worst of scenarios, is as contagious as spreading negative emotion. Remember that, it's important.

Now, the inspiration for today. I got up a little later than normal and instantly wanted a morning coffee. Now normally I wake up a little first but today I just got up, got dressed, put on my coat and walked over to buy my coffee. I was tired, in my defense, and being tired can also result in being cranky (which I already somewhat was). So I'm waiting in line and the workers are moving through customers at a good pace, but the line is not moving. Courtesy tip number one: if you are in line and the person in front of you takes a step forward (let alone five people move forward), move forward! I know it's a bit petty but I don't want to see a 20 foot gap between the first person in the line and the counter while there is a 30 foot line of people waiting in line. Those 30 people are blocking other people in the area so please, show some courtesy, put down your damn phones and take the one step forward.

Just realized I went off on a little tangent on a small pet peeve, which relates to manners, however what I meant to tell you about was the guy. I finally get my coffee. I'm overheating now in my winter coat, I'm somewhat frustrated by the lady who needed to stand 20 feet from the counter until it was her turn and all I want is to step outside with my coffee to enjoy a morning cigarette. I proceed to the doors (there are two sets with a foyer in between) to leave. Now let us make something clear: I get my coffee at a nearby hospital so as a courtesy every time I am going in or out, I hold doors open for others going in and out. They're already at a hospital, why make their stay worse by being rude? So I try to make it better by being kind, even in small ways like holding a door (this can make the most remarkable of positive impressions on people, I urge you to try it). So, I am on my way out and there is a man on his way in. He has his file folders tucked up under his armpit, some papers in his hand and a very business like expression on his face. I saw him on the outside, just before he opened the first door, so I stood back and held open mine so that as he came in, he could just keep going. Now normally I can bite my tongue, but the circumstances of my disposition were not in that favor. As he walked past me, he did not even acknowledge my existence; as though he or his work were much more important than I. He strutted on by, nose in the air, consumed with himself with nary a smile or a thank you. 

Now this is important. He could have made my day with just a simple nod of his head to acknowledge my courtesy; instead he blatantly ignored me. I wish I could say I was the bigger person, but sometimes even the most peaceful of us have moments of weakness. As he walked past I simply raised my voice and said, "You're welcome, asshole." In retrospect I still feel as though he deserved what I said, however in good conscious I cannot feel right about saying it. For a brief moment my entire day was on the line. When this man slapped me in the face by ignoring my kindness I felt extremely slighted and jaded. How could he be so ignorant? Instead, I stopped outside and thought about things for a moment. Why let this set the tone of my day? I didn't and I won't. He is obviously an unhappy and miserable person (at least for this morning, at that moment) who I do not envy in any way. I, on the other hand, am generally happy and well-minded; I am much happier with being me.

So my friends, good manners. Yes, they are important. No, they will no always be acknowledged. Don't stop. Don't ever stop. As this particular man actions, or inaction, were almost enough to completely change the outcome of my day, I urge you to remember this when you are going about your lives today. Acknowledge at every turn the kindness and courtesy of others and always, always live your life as an example: good manners, courtesy, respect and kindness. Do this for others; do this for yourself. You will find that your quality of life will improve as well as those around you.

Many blessings, one love and have the most amazing day you can with what you have; it is still more than some.