This morning, as I eagerly headed toward my favorite coffee shop, a young woman dashed ahead of me, through the door – and, without a backward glance – let the heavy door slam back in my face. Ouch.
It wasn’t the slammed door that bothered me, I didn’t get hurt. What bothered me was the lack of civility, the lack of courtesy. A reminder that both seem to be fading in our conversations and culture.
And yet, on the way out – a young man held the door open wide for me to exit. I thanked him for his courtesy. He said, ‘my pleasure.’ Faith was renewed.
Jayne Reardon, a brilliant attorney, writing for the ABA says: “The French and Latin etymologies of the word civility suggest, roughly, “relating to citizens.” In its earliest use, the term referred to exhibiting good behavior for the good of a community. The early Greeks thought civility was both a private virtue and a public necessity, which functioned to hold the state together. Some equate civility with respect. So, civility is a behavioral code of decency or respect that is the hallmark of living as citizens in the same state.” Well said, Ms. Reardon.
Still stewing over my bad and good experiences at the coffee shop, I wondered: When did everyday courtesies and good behavior stop being commonplace?
What happened to our instinct to attack the problem and not the person? “Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable … surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith.” (President Barack Obama)
How do some conversations become a minefield of insults? “Sir Winston, you are disgustingly drunk! And you my dear are ugly. But tomorrow I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.” (Lady Astor & Winston Churchill)
Civility to most means behaving in a considerate, courteous, polite – and, when needed, helpful manner. (Merriam Webster) If I could add a footnote, it would be one dating before the dictionary or the word civility existed. It would be “Do unto others …”
In my youth I was warned Handsome is as Handsome does. Today I remind myself – Civil is as Civil does. Whoever you are, young man at the coffee shop – thank you. Civility may be struggling, but you proved it is still alive.
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