Common Courtesy

Hollie - St. Louis, Missouri
Entered on April 9, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • 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.

This I Believe

I believe in the power of common courtesy and politeness.

I believe that small, seemingly insignificant acts of courtesy and politeness are more than just a habit. For me, they are a conscious effort to convey my belief that every person should be treated as someone of value, meriting my respect.

This seems so simplistic; every child is taught their manners. But I think we learn to say “please” and “thank-you”, the so-called magic words, as means to an end – “you can have the cookie if you say please”- not the end in itself. Therefore, the whole intent of courteous behavior and considerateness for other people gets lost.

I feel acutely aware of rude and discourteous behavior: aggressive driving, impatient shoppers, dismissive treatment in transactions, culminating in the spectacular scams and rip-offs of late. For me, this all boils down to a failure to view one another as individuals worthy of respect.

I’ve given this a lot of thought lately; I had an experience with a law enforcement official in a large city, not my own, who was very kind to me when my car was towed away, my purse with all id, cash and credit cards inside. This person went out of his way to reunite me with my belongings and to get the ticket and towing costs waived, as he felt I was there doing important work and that it was unfair to be penalized for my ignorance of the parking rules. I wrote a letter of thanks to him and to his superiors, and I heard back from him that in the 21 years he had served as a fireman (injured in the line of duty) and in law enforcement, he was so pleased to have received a complement. This letter still bothers me: if the first-responders don’t hear us say “thank-you”, and hear it often, who are we?

I wish I could say I always achieve this: there are times when I am stressed and in a rush and do not extend the manners I would like to. I try to recognize when others are having days like this, and not react to rude behavior. I believe in common courtesy and politeness and in expressing to the people I interact with that I value them as a person, respect their right to be on the road, in the store, and have their own beliefs.