Did you hear the joke about the little boy who came home from a birthday party, and his mother asked him, “Did you have a good time?”
“Yes,” the little boy replied.
“When you left did you thank your friend’s mother for inviting you?”
“Well, I was going to,” answered the child, “but when I was standing at the door getting ready to leave, the little girl in front of me said, ‘Thank you.’”
“Then my friend’s mother said, ‘Don’t mention it,’” said the boy. “So, I didn’t.”
Maybe a lot of us are like this little boy, we don’t know how to politely respond, because good manners are rapidly becoming extinct in our society. According to the website www.rightparenting.com, “Just surf the net for an hour and you will come across thousands of rude, arrogant and obnoxious comments on major public sites … even in real life, people are often displaying the rude side of their persona without any remorse.”
Sometime ago, I was lamenting over the issue of manner extinction with a friend who is a retired ethics professor. Although she chooses to remain nameless, I can assure you the distress in her voice was genuine when she expressed her concern over the fact that as a nation we have lost “basic respect for all others resulting in the loss of good manners.” After all, Wikipedia’s www.backdrop.net states that the purpose for manners is to “ease the stress of communal living, and mannerly behavior recognizes the right of others to share communal space.”
Once, daily conversation speckled with “please” and “thank you,” courteous listening in conversations, prompt RSVP’s to invitations, and thank you cards for a gift received were commonplace. Today gifts sent often go unacknowledged and RSVP’s are frequently ignored. This might seem minimal in comparison to catastrophic issues besetting our world, but if you are the one planning a catered event this oversight could be expensive.
In addition, what about the grandmother or aunt, who has sent a gift card or item by mail? Of course, most givers would like a formal response acknowledging how wonderful their gift choice was, but many would settle for an email informing them the present wasn’t lost in the mail.
My ethics professor friend assures me that if Americans would return to embracing the Golden Rule this could even help to curtail social issues like bullying. There have been books and essays written about the famous adage to “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” One definition of the Golden Rule is, “… Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them …” (The Message).
Probably most people reading this column are pretty good at common etiquette. Still, it’s becoming acceptable to bemoan a hectic schedule as ample apology for dismissing social graces, but think about the legacy this creates. If we’re too busy to put our phone down to listen when interacting with others, our children and grandchildren are learning not to give others their full attention as well.
There are folks like famous country singer, Tim McGraw, who seem to realize just how important courteous and respectful behavior can be. Lyrics to his 2016 number one song, “Humble and Kind” tell us to, “Hold the door, say ‘Please,’ say, ‘Thank you’— Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie,” etc.
McGraw felt impressed to share the song’s message, but he didn’t write the words. Songwriter and mother of five, Lori McKenna did. www.tasteofcountry.com reports that the lyrics “… sprang from McKenna’s concern over raising her younger children in the age of cellphones and social media, and hoping they understood the proper way to treat others.”
For those of us who have survived parenting, remember the challenge of teaching the concept of “sharing” to a toddler? Often, we taught by example, like sharing dried cheerios from a zip-lock bag. In the end, we cheered when our tiny charge extended their pudgy hand offering us a few pieces of their saliva-soaked cereal.
It wasn’t always pleasant, and it was a long arduous process. So, it is with good manners. It’s an increasingly lost art that needs to be taught and role-modeled. Let’s get off our cellphones, get out those thank you notes, answer the invitations clamoring for an RSVP, and reinstate the Golden Rule whenever we can.
The writer is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.