This I Believe

Camille - Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Entered on June 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe we need more one-lane bridges

Growing up, I lived in a rural part of SE Pennsylvania where there are a number of one-lane bridges. Some were beautiful covered bridges like the one down the street from my school in Kimberton, PA on Seven Stars Road. Others were a matter of necessity like the “Iron Bridge” near my home which left you no where to go if two cars came upon the bridge at the same time, someone was going to have to back up and let the other pass.

One-lane bridges are one of the last bastions of politeness left in our rush rush, me me me society.

Have you noticed, walking down the street or entering a building people do not follow or perhaps know of any “proper” etiquette or rules of polite society? My latest pet peeve is the entrance to the building where I have been working lately. There are two doors. Nice, wide, glass and brass doors. As I enter through the right door someone exiting quickly darts across to take advantage of the open door. OK, fine, that person must be in a hurry. But what follows is a stream of people following him or her. Are they lemmings destined to the fate of those they follow, or are they simply clueless to manners and so self-interested that all they see is a quicker exit?

What one-lane bridges offer is a space where today’s values: “my beemer” or my benz” meet, quite literally, yesterday’s manners: “after you”. Because, let’s face it, today’s “me” focused populous would not sacrifice their treasure (beemer or benz) to an old Ford pick-up so they are, sadly, forced to patiently wait. I say sadly because it is sad to me that people have all but forgotten to be polite and nice to one another; to be aware of our surroundings; to pay attention to the needs of complete strangers around us simply because they are fellow human beings; to make room on a sidewalk for others to pass. To say thank you to the teller at the tollbooth, to hold the door for the elderly person who is slowly entering the building because we have been or will be in their position one day, and wouldn’t it be nice to know that people are there for us?

I believe that we can all use a good dose of manners, politeness and patience. I believe we can all learn to have and give more. We are all human beings just doing our best to be human. And hopefully, our treatment of one another helps us define the qualities of being human. It all goes back to what my great-grandmother always said: “Be nice and say thank you.” This I believe.