We’ve all heard it said that everything we need to know as adults we learned when we were kids, but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. As a parent, it’s become evident that some of the other things I need to know I’m learning from my kids.
Basic stuff, like appreciation for little things – really, how significant is a pack of gum? – and the magic of being nice. Granted, kids tend to learn these things from adults, but when we allow that reality to take a back seat to those moments of clarity and wonder that kids provide us, it opens up a window to a better life for us as adults.
Simply put, I believe in the redemptive power of two specific words; humility, and civility. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the “Golden Rule”, and that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time – which apparently is our great equalizer – but I know it’s been enough times that I’ve stop “hearing” them. These quips have become boilerplate in my brain, but the two words that manifest these ideas are hard-wired into my conscience.
In our time-impoverished, “sorry I’m late”, email-voicemail-overload world, these two words carry great meaning for me. Without humility, how do we reduce our stress, teach our kids it’s not all about them, and show gratitude for all the good things we experience, regardless of our station in life? One need not possess great wealth to experience great joy, and gratitude begets humility.
Similarly, civility enables a reduction in the “volume” that plagues our everyday lives. Our legal system, political culture, and blogosphere all project the idea that loud is good and rude is better. Threats and bluster trump civil deliberation seemingly every time, and it makes me wonder what the end-game is. How much corrosiveness in spirit from our vitriolic discourse can we take before our social fabric begins to unravel?
Fortunately, I believe that words/deeds can still prevail, and that we can all make a difference, one encounter at a time. Chivalry may be dead, but I still try to hold doors open for others, and I’m appreciative when it’s reciprocated. My wife and I tell our kids that “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” are the words that matter, and that implies an obligation to use them ourselves. Its things like this that keeps my two guiding words top-of-mind, on a very short leash.
Call me idealistic, maybe naïve, but I believe in the transformative effect of simple things, that we don’t always need to succumb to the pressures foisted on us by a 24/7 world. In my mind, a little humility goes a long way, and civility, when properly exercised, can turn random encounters into day-brightening events. So I’ll keep putting my pants on, one leg at a time, and treating others like I want to be treated, even if I can’t “hear” those platitudes when they’re thrown my way. This, I believe.
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