Simple Courtesy

October 14, 2009

I remember once, riding in the truck with my father and I noticed he would often wave to people as we met them on the highway, I thought at the time, “Wow, dad must really know a lot of people.” One day after seeing him wave and noticing the gentleman return his gesture, I finally asked, “Dad, did you know that guy?” My father shook his head and said, “Just being friendly.” My father then, was a man who only spoke when something needed to be said, at least to me he was, but with those words “Just being friendly”, and his actions he taught me so much about simple, common, courtesy. I watched as I grew up, my father would open doors for strangers, male and female alike. He would often give up his seat for people, especially when a lady entered a room where he was sitting. He never made me follow suit, he never told me I had to do as he did. I just watched and I learned. As a young man I mimicked my fathers actions, I opened doors for people, it didn’t matter how old they were, whether they were male of female, the act of opening a door for someone became kind of habit. To this day I generally offer my seat to a lady nearby or when a lady enters the room. I remember once I was walking into a store, I saw a lady in the glass reflection behind me so when I opened the door, I stood to the side and offered to let her enter before me. She stopped and smiled at me and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Your parents raised you right.” I smiled at her and said “Yes Ma’am, they did.”

Whatever happened to those simple acts of courtesy? I don’t notice more people doing it, in fact I notice it less. I still wave to people when I pass them in my car, but I notice few are returned. Most of the time I get more waves returned from men than I do women. Maybe we are too busy being wrapped up in ourselves to notice simple gestures of friendship or courtesy. Maybe it’s the times, but it seems few have remembered the lessons learned as children or maybe they were never taught. My parents taught me kindness and courtesy, and they didn’t have to beat it into me, they didn’t have to threaten me with bodily injury to get me to show courtesy, they simply led by example. It seems fewer and fewer people are willing to do that, lead by example, now they just follow the herd. Each of us are going along, as if in a cattle chute on our way to our destinations to conduct our business, never giving our neighbor a second thought, or a first thought for that matter.

The other day I was in a shopping center with my wife picking up a few necessities. My wife needed some hair spray. We found the aisle we were looking for and in the aisle was a woman, who was busy studying some products on the shelf and her daughter who looked to be about 10 or 12 years old. The daughter was pushing the shopping cart or rather she was standing behind it with her hands on the handle, fidgeting about in the middle of the aisle. My wife had somehow managed to make it down the aisle near the hair sprays she was looking for. I, somehow, got caught at the head of the aisle standing in front of the woman and her child. I was waiting for them to notice me and move over so I could join my wife down the aisle. I stood right in front of them. The daughter looked at me several times, but never moved. The mother would never even acknowledge my mere existence nor asked the child to move over for me. I even spoke over them and toward my wife, “Honey, did you find what you were looking for?” The moment that they would offer to move over so I could pass never came, so I said “Oh, excuse me.” and made my way down another clear aisle and then back up to join my wife. Yes, it was a simple thing for me to go around to where my wife was, but that’s not the point. I joined my wife, we looked at each other and both shrugged our shoulders at the incident. I said, “There is just no more simple courtesy in the world.”