Is Common Courtesy a Thing of the Past?
Is it possible that we don’t pay enough attention to others? In today’s me-centered the world, the unequivocal answer seems to be “yes.” When I’m out and about, I can’t help but marvel at the way people collectively treat others. We’ve turned into complete savages.
At the post office, nobody holds the door for that lone individual carrying a huge box of letters to mail. Instead, everybody races to get ahead of that person so they don’t have to wait in line. Driving down the road, I watch drivers dart in and out of traffic, racing to be first no matter what the cost to other drivers or pedestrians around them. And in a restaurant, when the hostess says, “Can I help you?” in bored tone, I can’t help but feel I’m somehow burdening her with my desire for basic nourishment.
Maybe the world is moving too fast for human compassion, or maybe we’ve learned as a society that manners aren’t imperative to meeting work and family demands. Regardless of the reason, we have little consideration for other people. As a result, some folks are emotionally hurt, while others are downright fed-up.
I know a 79-year-old woman who abruptly quit her job because she kept receiving parking tickets while at work. She was employed at a little gift shop in the downtown district, where parking is strictly limited to one hour. If a car in that area is in the same spot for one hour and two minutes, the driver can expect a ticket on his or her windshield. The meter maid is fanatical about her job, rigorously patrolling the streets with a determined look on her face.
With the woman mentioned above, the system worked against her rather than for her. She was parked for no reason other than to work. When she explained her situation to the meter maid, she received this smarmy response: “You can’t park here. Period. The public lot is three blocks down. Park there.”
Bear in mind, we’re talking about a 79-year-old woman who works only because she needs something to occupy her time (and mind). But her desire to help in the community earned her a handful of parking tickets and ill treatment. So she quit, and now she can repose at home where she is safe and comfortable, without worrying about trekking three blocks by herself just to get to her car.
An Utter Lack of Regard
In response to the increasingly apathetic attitude toward fellow citizens, we’ve adopted equally dismissive responses. I read a quote recently that helped put these responses, and the situations in which they are said, into perspective: "There’s always some truth behind 'Just kidding,' knowledge behind 'I don’t know,' emotion behind 'I don’t care,' and pain behind 'It’s okay.'' So does it all boil down to basic apathy?
Maybe it’s time to start thinking about others instead of only about ourselves. At the store, it might be nice if somebody held the door open for another, who in turn might pay that favor forward. While driving, it might be nice if we were conscious of the drivers and pedestrians around us. And maybe, most importantly, we need to be aware of the feelings of others. When we receive a seemingly careless response, such as “who cares,” we might want to take the time to see what’s really behind those words. Before we even receive that response, though, we need to treat others with basic kindness, returning to the roots common decency: treat others as you would like to be treated.