This I Believe

JoEllen - Decatur, Georgia
Entered on October 10, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: respect

I believe in looking people in eye and saying “Hello”.

I grew up in a Southern culture where learning certain relational mores were paramount. As a child, I heard personal friends of my grandmother calling her “Mrs. Duke”. It was the lady thing to do. When I was 13 years old, my mother sent me to a class to learn how to be a lady. While I am certain that holding up my pinky finger with a tea cup is really not necessary to have a happy life, I have learned to appreciate those social skills which were a part of my culture. The mores of politeness have seemed to lessen my isolation.

Today, we live in a world in which our primary way of communicating is through e-mail. Even in offices where persons are only feet away, we e-mail each other. While it seems easier to just shoot off an e-mail, it certainly has taken the person out of communicating. We have replaced basic social skills and non-verbal communication with smiley faces made with colons and parentheses. It seems much more difficult to see our reflection in the eyes of others.

As a parent, I want to teach my son how to relate to people. I see that his self sufficiency, interdependence, and emotional well being, will depend upon his skills in relationships. When he was three years old, I remember watching his preschool teacher showing him the basic skills of introducing a newcomer to the playgroup. I realized then that his success in school or overall adjustment to life’s transitions did not depend upon his test scores or IQ. Perhaps, it seemed just as important for him to learn some basic social skills.

• Look at someone in the eye and say “Hello”.

• Say “Thank you” or “Please”.

• Show respect to the elders in the community.

• Make sure a newcomer is introduced into the group.

• Always ask if someone wants to dance. Don’t assume anything.

• Respectfully accept “no” for an answer.

• Hold the door open for others.

• Ask others, “Can I carry your load?”

I wonder what it would be like if the Palestinians and the Israelis began holding the door open for each other. Or what would it be like if the Americans put their guns down and asked the Iraqis if they could carry their load? Such gestures may not exactly create world peace, but at least it would begin a relationship and a common meeting point.

I have realized that if I want to be a part of the greater community and out of isolation, it starts by looking at someone and saying, “hello”.