The Communal Benefits of Common Courtesy

Jonathan - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on December 11, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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The Communal Benefits of Common Courtesy

I believe that the little things count for more than most would expect. I believe that politeness and humility are not overrated. And most importantly, I believe in always holding the door open for others.

I know that these common courtesies are often written off as old-fashioned and unnecessary. The phrase I hear most of the time is that character is not defined by mindless routines of formality. And that’s probably right, holding a door open doesn’t make you a great person, a good person or even an okay person. But it does display what kind or person you are. It shows that at least some part of your mind is dedicated to consideration for others.

I’m always curious to see what sort of reactions people have when I hold the door open for them. Most of the time they’re thankful, quite a few have no response, and every once in a while there’s that person who seems resentful that you’ve made them interact with another person in even a small, insignificant way. Whatever the response, I believe that the intent of the action isn’t solely to spare someone the grueling agony of moving a hinged door less than three feet, but also serves to show that individuals have the capacity to empathize with and care about perfect strangers. After all, it makes a big difference to know that at any one time there are countless people who aren’t just concerned with themselves but also actively try to help others in any way they can.

But for me, this issue is best framed when placed next to its alternative. When one performs small acts of kindness, they wear on their sleeves an invitation for greetings, small talk, acquaintanceship, and ultimately friendship. They show a willingness to interact with others and a desire to do more than plow through their own routine. I maintain hope that very few people would consciously choose an alternative of self-absorption and isolation when faced with the choice.

Whenever I focus on the little things, those little, “unnecessary” acts of kindness, I find myself hoping that something will come of them which improves my own life or the life of a stranger. Whether it gives someone a much needed signal of support, or sets the stage for a lasting friendship, I have to hold on to hope that the little things do matter. This I believe.