I started out my day by eating Cocoa Puffs cereal at 10 o’clock in the morning. I was shoveling the chocolaty goodness into my mouth when my dad interrupted me with our plans for the afternoon. We were to visit my father’s friend who lived over an hour away. My continual complaints went unheeded until my dad warned me that the trip would not be the only thing that would ruin my day. As my hope for a solitary, lazy afternoon came crashing down around me, I wondered how I would react. I could be rude and sullen, or accept my situation and try to make the best of it.
During the long journey, I reminisced on all the similar situations where I also felt I had been forced into them. No matter how far back I went, I could not remember a single instance when acting impolitely ended well. One striking example occurred on my ninth birthday when my grandparents did not send me a present. My ungrateful behavior during the last time they gave me a gift prompted this reaction. Politeness, however, never failed to garner satisfactory results. I realized that I had no control over events in my life, but I could choose my responses. As a result, I decided to spend the rest of the day with a smile on my face and act respectfully.
My father’s friend turned out to be a mechanic who owned his own shop. I graciously greeted him and proceeded to hold the door open for the adults as we walked into his office. There, I tried to appear interested in their dialogue. The sound of whirring power tools and wrenches periodically drowned out the adults’ conversation. The warm heater in his office, in combination with the dull discussion, almost lulled me to sleep. Thankfully, we left for lunch before I dozed off.
At the restaurant, I was again subject to a dull chat about various grown-up topics. With great willpower, I forced myself to look alive and interested. I was able to act politely throughout the entire day. I was surprised, however, to receive money from my dad’s friend at the end of the meeting. He explained that he was impressed by how well I behaved and wished to reward me. Being polite really paid off.