I’m going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy on this one, but I can’t help it. As I go through my days, the lack of politeness and consideration is astounding to me. Sometimes, I admit with a tinge of shame, it makes me so mad I forget my own manners. But it is really hard to be nice to people who seem hell-bent on being rude.
One of the worst places for this self-centered behavior is the local grocery store. Honestly, I don’t know how the employees deal with it. The customers are pushy, rude and badgering. They bash their carts into me and into my cart and look right through me while doing it. I teach my kindergarteners that even if it is an accident when you whack somebody, you can apologize. The way some of these people act, I think they really believe that no one else matters, and that the rest of the human race is just so much decoration around them, to be treated with disdain. They remind me of the people I wrote about in my blog post on road rage.
Is it difficult to be aware of others, and lend a helping hand without even being asked? Not in my world. I hold the door for the person behind me, whether it is a man, woman or child. I offer to get something off of a high shelf at the store that someone is having difficulty reaching. I say “good morning” “thank you” and “good bye” to the bus driver, the store clerks, the garbage men, the ticket-takers, whatever. They are human beings too. Best story I heard recently: a NYC public bus driver picking up students at a local college refuses to move until everyone says a word to him. He apparently reamed out the busload of mostly-young people, saying “shame on you all for getting on my bus and not acknowledging me.” Go, bus driver! This is the guy who will get you there safely and on time. Yes, he is getting paid and it’s his job. So what? It doesn’t cost me a dime to say something nice to him.
I even try, really really hard to be polite to the annoying and usually-poorly timed telemarketers that call my house. This one is an admitted challenge, but I do try. Little-known fact: once long ago, there was a pair of starving college students who did anything to earn money, and one of them spent an eight-hour shift as a telemarketer. The horrifyingly rude comments made by the recipients upset that young man so much he could not sleep that night and quit the next day. A little empathy can go a long way to helping one be considerate!
I make my kinders thank our door-holders as we walk past, each one of them by name. When I see the “door-holders” from other classes being ignored by their classmates (and their teachers), it looks like bullying to me. I even see the occasional tongue stuck out at the classmate holding the door. What is that?? When I teach older students, we practice the hearty handshake with greeting and eye-contact on a daily basis, as well as the thank you to the class helpers. Never too young to learn social niceties.
A smile and a kind word makes the world a better place. Children need to be taught this directly, and have it reinforced consistently and constantly. But adults apparently need reminders as well. I find that when I am at my most stressed out, I sometimes forget my manners. But then someone will acknowledge me with an “excuse me” or a “thank you”, and it pulls me back and grounds me. Just because I am having a bad day, doesn’t give me an excuse to be rude. When this happens, it actually brightens my attitude and my day. As I get older, I notice more and more how people interact. And, although I don’t want to turn into my mother who scolds people on the street regularly for any perceived infraction of her personal code, I do sometimes want to say, “would it kill you to say ‘excuse me’?” When I see a very polite young person with a parent, I always comment about it to the parent so that they both know I have noticed and appreciate it. That is the way the world should be. Thanks for reading!