Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pervasive Courtesy

     I often hear people complain that "these days" people are so rude.  As they voice these complaints, they'll point out legitimate examples of rude behavior like loud cell phone usage in public places or an aggressive driver cutting someone off.  While I don't disagree that there are plenty of examples of such behavior, I really don't know whether it's any different than it's ever been.  More importantly, I do know that every day I see tons and tons of incidents where people are polite and courteous to each other.  
     What gave rise to these thoughts was something that happened at a restaurant today.  I was standing inside the restaurant, waiting for some people to arrive.  In the lobby area, there seemed to be lots of families with little children.  As each group approached the door, either on their way in or on their way out, I would hold the door open for them.  Sometimes they were juggling multiple children, a baby stroller, and all their baby paraphernalia so it was helpful for them to have the door held open.  I did this for about 5 or 6 minutes so I had the chance to observe lots of people.  Everyone said "thank you" and while I was holding open one set of doors, I often saw others holding another set.  
     It occurred to me that the acts of courtesy that I performed, and that I witnessed others do as well, were completely unremarkable.  Every day, I see people do lots of things to be courteous to each other.  From holding doors open, to letting someone go in front of you in a line, to allowing a car to pull out in traffic, to simply saying "please" and "thank you", I think most people are far more courteous and polite than we often acknowledge.  Perhaps it's simply a case of seeing whatever you're looking for.  If you're looking for rudeness, there's no doubt plenty of it to be found.  But if you're looking for kindness, there's a ton of that to be found as well.

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