I regularly hear that my kids have good manners. People compliment me on how polite they are. Though I appreciate hearing good things about them, this always puzzles me. They are not doing anything special, they behave in a way that I would expect everyone to. They say please and thank you, hold the door for the next person (or open it for someone without a free hand) and wait their turn.
I have had store employees thank me for pausing a phone conversation to interact with them. (One even mentioned it had never happened before.) Why is this out of the ordinary? What has happened to our society? How did we become a society of individuals rather than a whole?
Every generation complains about the new one. Looking back, our parents and grandparents cited a lack of respect, a selfishness about the youth of the day. One can say that this is more of the same, but I am seeing it in older people as well. This lack of courtesy is not peculiar to teens and young adults. In fact, it is often worse in those who are old enough “to know better.”
Finger pointing and blaming is rampant. Someone else is to blame for everything. Few accept responsibility for their actions, least of all our authority figures and the media who report on them.
People react to bad news. They comment on stories they disagree with. Bad news, outrageous news, misleading news and headlines all create controversy and people make their opinions known. Think about this: When is the last time you commented on good news? When was the last time you told someone that they made a positive difference in your life? When did you last share a story celebrating someone else’s accomplishments? When did you last smile and exchange pleasantries with a stranger? When did you last comment on an act of kindness, acknowledging that you noticed and that it was appreciated?
We complain about the preponderance of bad news. Tragedy and scandal are the headlines. The positive stories get buried, if they run at all. Why? Because that is what we are asking for. We blame the media for creating controversy. These stories are successful only because people react to them. It is obvious that the way we are behaving is not working.
Let’s try something new. The next time something makes you feel good, tell someone about it. The next time you read something that makes you smile, that encourages you, share it. Tell people that their actions and words are making a difference. Look for the positive. Encourage kindness. We can’t escape all the evil and sadness in the world, but we don’t have to feed it.