This I Believe

Entered on November 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

My mother was right. Call me old fashioned, but I believe good manners are important. Good manners break down social barriers, foster community, and give us all a much needed sense of connection to one another. In a competitive culture where getting kicked off the island/voted out of the contest/forced off the stage/and thrown out of the ring passes as entertainment, we could all use the solace of simple courtesy.

I believe in “Good Morning!” and “Please” and “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome.”

I believe in taking turns.

I believe in letting that car in the driveway slip into traffic in front of mine, holding the door open for the student behind me, giving up my seat to an older person on the bus, standing up when an elder enters a room, helping that woman with packages to carry a heavy load.

I believe in smiling at the store clerk when I’m being waited on, asking “Can you help me?”

I believe in the thank you note, the R.S.V.P.; I believe in dressing for the occassion. I believe in returning phone calls.

I believe in asking “Can I do anything to help?”

I believe in listening to a speaker when I’m in a group, sitting still to be attentive, and focusing on what she’s saying; I believe in waiting until someone finishes his words until I speak.

I believe in picking up trash, even if I haven’t dropped it, pushing the chair back after I’ve used it, wiping the sink if water splashes, and letting people come out of a room before entering it.

I believe in waiting with the last player on my team until she is picked up at school

I believe in saying “I’m sorry.” I believe in meaning I’m sorry.

Life is tough. Good manners say, We’re in this together. Good manners say, I’m looking out for you. I believe sometimes “we” comes before “I.”

No, good manners won’t help solve the crisis in Darfur or end the war in Iraq or solve the problem of global warming, but we can’t do much about those large issues in the course of a single day. We can, however, ease the harshness of life with simple courtesy. Think of the problem this way: if we were not so worn down by the petty annoyances and unexamined meanness of daily life, maybe we would feel the confidence in one another to confront more serious social questions. In a world where “May I help you?” has become “What do you want me to do about it?” basic courtesy just might be the difference.