November 9, 2009

The Uncommonness of Courtesy

Last week, a gentleman held a door open for me. It wasn't my dad, boyfriend or brother. This was a random person who obviously felt extending a courtesy wasn't an act of treason at that moment. My profuse thankfulness may have caused the man to have second thoughts about his actions but the truth is I was stunned. I rarely get to see even the most common courtesies expressed to myself or others lately. We've all been on the train, an elderly person loaded down with bags enters and seated, able-bodied people turn their heads away so as not to make eye contact. Or someone drops a pile of stuff, things scattering everywhere and people look down at the mess only to make sure they're able to step around it, continuing on their path to whereverland. It's a sad statement on where we've devolved as humans and I fear its another social epidemic.

Now, I'm not always a perfect, always-there-to-help person myself. As I type this post, I'm looking at a phone log that lists calls that I've needed to return for longer ago than I'm willing to admit here. I've been known to be so rushed and self-absorbed that pointing out to someone that they've dropped something on the street has been too much of an effort. I'm not proud of that. But I make every effort to make amends for that behavior every chance I get. My mom always said that good manners, being caring and considerate were the real keys to life's successes.

I'll never forget the day I was on a NYC subway and I noticed a woman facing the doorway with the back of her dress completely tucked into her pantyhose. Her whole backside was exposed to the world yet most of the other riders pretended not to notice or snickered at her obvious misfortune. I imagined how I would feel if I were in the same position. I would want someone to be courteous and bring the embarrasing predicament to my attention as soon as possible which is what I did. The fact that in her extreme humiliation or complete lunacy she snapped "Oh, I like it like that" did not deter me from extending common courtesies to others whenever the opportunity arises. I consider them my small contribution to a kinder, gentler world. Every little courtesy helps.

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