In case you haven’t noticed in your very busy lives, manners and decorum seem to have taken a long walk off a short pier. I have seen it everywhere during this frantic season of joy, in endless lines at stores, and on the road in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Forget your blinker? Watch out for the finger.
The fact that people everywhere seem one step away from total meltdown was evident during a series of public meetings I recently attended where friends and neighbors on either side of a contentious issue shouted each other down and hurled insults, threatening to stop speaking.
Recently, it hit close to home when I arrived at a doctor’s office after having to pull rank to get my child seen for a serious health issue. I wasn’t willing to wait weeks for an appointment when she was clearly at risk and instead remained polite and persistent until I could get her seen that same day. Is there a parent anywhere who wouldn’t do that?
Yet, when we arrived, the woman at the front desk didn’t even try to mask her disdain in front of a room full of other patients, and my child: “Oh yeah,’’ she said, rolling her eyes dramatically to the others. “I heard ALL about it.’’
So much for federal privacy laws and any consideration for a sick little girl’s feelings.
These sorts of sea changes in the very fabric of society would have horrified people like my parents, and their parents, who stressed from generation to generation the importance of being polite and respectful at all costs: even if you hated the food your hostess served, the gift you received, or the irritating compliments from old annoying aunts that insulted your adolescent intelligence.
Be nice. Be solicitous. Be a credit to your family. Remember where you came from. And, as a friend’s very wise mother used to say, when you don’t know what to do in a touchy situation, just do the “kind” thing.
I’m trying to remember that advice as the world continues to swirl in a different direction, and I’m really hoping that other people do, as well.