“Life is short, but there is always
time enough for courtesy.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I was raised right – I talk about people behind their backs.
It’s called manners!”
Kathy Griffin, Comedian
“Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.”
Elsie De Wolfe
So, I’m driving my boys to school the other morning along with every other parent in the tri-city area. (What happened to the days when we walked to school?) Anyhow, streets are narrow, traffic is bumper-to-bumper, 3/4 of us are still in our pajamas, and the snail-paced rush hour is only a test of patience in our attempt to get to school – on time. But this did not excuse the very bad behavior of one mom.
Three of us approached a 3-way stop T-intersection. Two of us reached the intersection at the same time (me and the guy across going in the opposite direction). After we stopped, me and the guy logically continued. But the gal to my left (who had stopped last) apparently thought someone had done her wrong because she screeched around the corner and butted up right behind the guy wailing on the horn, flipping her finger in the air, yelling profanities.
Really?! No one had done anything wrong. What was her problem?! Was her life in peril? Was she injured? Assaulted? I’ll tell you something, mine and my kids’ eyes and ears were assaulted by her behavior.
Clean-Up on Isle #1!
Speaking of assaulted. Later in the grocery store, I was in a long line and one impatient guy couldn’t take the wait any longer. “How does a guy get some help around here?!” he yelled. It’s not like anyone was wasting time, loafing around. Obviously, the clerks were working hard. Courtesy clerks were rushing for price checks, collecting carts, and bagging groceries at fever pitch. This was simply a very busy time. Even the store manager was manning a checkstand in an effort to herd everyone through in the most timely manner. Apparently, this wasn’t enough for this prima dona. “I pay these high prices for better service! %#@*! Let’s get more @*#% help up here!”
The Bible has a word for such behavior – Rude. When defining what Love is not, the Apostle Paul put indecent rudeness on the list.
“Love doth not behave itself unseemingly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil”
1 Corinthians 13:5
The Greek word for rude means unseemingly, shameful, indecent, disgraceful behavior.
Getting to the Root of Courtesy
Is it just me, or are we seeing more and more shameful behavior? Where did common courtesy go? People can be so rude. We steal parking spaces. We forget names (I’m guilty of this one). We fail to show up. We ignore. We interrupt (guilty of this one too). Media is claiming that we are raising a “Me” generation. I love the way one teenager is addressing the degeneration of her generation. Rebecca McKinsey said, “Being classy is my teenage rebellion.” Way to go!
Well, I don’t know where courtesy went, but I can tell you where the word came from. Notice how the first five letters of the word courtesy spells court?
In 18th century France, to be courteous was to act in the same manner as the court. The family and servants of the king were expected to follow a higher standard – to have etiquette.
When aristocrats trampled the royal gardens of Versailles, the court of King Louis XIV used etiquette, literally meaning “little signs,” to guide people on how to act on royal property – to stay off the grass.
When nobles ignored these signs, good ol’ Louis decreed that no one go beyond the bounds of etiquette, thus expounding the word’s meaning to include: rules of conduct.
So a word that originated as a little sign became something synonymous with a code of good behavior.
What’s Your Sign?
Truth is, we all wear little signs. What does your behavior say about you? About your family? About your belief system?
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Christians bear Christ’s name. And those who don’t believe in Jesus note what we do. They make decisions about Christ by watching us. When we are kind, they assume Christ is kind. When we are courteous, they assume Christ is courteous. But if we are rude or brash or dishonest, what will others think about our King?
No wonder the Apostle Paul says:
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without (without belief), redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
Common courtesy honors Christ. It also honors and blesses others. When you let another take a parking spot, you honor the other driver. When you return something you borrowed (in better condition than when you got it), you honor the lender. When you smile and say hello, you honor your neighbor.
“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
Maybe this is why I was so grateful to the guys at The Home Depot.
Man in the Moon Needs a Face-lift
As you know, I have spent the last few months planning a prom. The theme “Night in Paris” was fertile ground for many ideas (post on Night in Paris coming soon). One project was creating a 7’x9′ Man in the Moon prop for the photo room.
When I finished painting it, I wasn’t in love with the final result. Couldn’t put my finger on why I didn’t love it, but I resolved to set it aside and move on to my other art pieces I had planned. So, we put the prop a storage room, I took a quick snapshot of it on my phone, and that was that.
Next night, during a meeting, I whipped out my phone and snuck a peek of the Moon prop. I don’t like it, I thought. The moon does not photo well. And, as we all know, photo props generally should photo well. The problem was the color. Dark blue looked black, clouds were underwhelming, shadowing bland. This requires a re-do. (Stick with me here, I’m getting to the point).
Carl, the Paint Guy
Following the meeting, Ashley and I headed to The Home Depot and made a b-line to the paint department where we met Carl.
“Well, what can I do to help you out this fine evening?”
“Are you the paint guy?” I was so happy to see him.
“That’s what they call me!” An older gentleman greeted us.
Tall, slender, white hair, glasses, manicured beard. He looked as if this were not his occupation, but maybe an inbetween job, or second income. I’m sure this was not his ideal way of spending a Saturday night, but he was making the most of it. And though it was closing time, he took his time with us.
I shared my prop and desire for a brighter blue. He genuinely cared about my little project and kindly offered paint brand suggestions. I quickly picked colors and as the paint mixed we chitchatted. Fun. Delightful, engaging, polite. When finished, he wished me a good evening and a successful prom. Ashley and I walked away saying, “What a great guy. He was so nice!”
I guess when common courtesy is not so common, moments like this stand out.
Walter in Hardware
Still in the Home Depot, we headed over to the hardware department for eyebolts and L-brackets. That’s where we met Walter. “You look like you have a few questions. Can I be of service to you?” Another older gentleman, thinning gray hair, glasses, slightly hunched over in his plaid shirt and orange apron. Looked like he was already retired but came back to work for a little extra cash. I asked some questions about bolt sizes and metals. He was helpful with more than just hardware know-how; again, even though the store was closing, he took his time and was adorable!
While courtesy may be the policy of Home Depot employees, helpful Walter in the orange apron and respectful Carl the paint guy went far above and beyond – the epitome of etiquette and class.
Made me feel special. I left the store with more than bolts and paint colors. Because of Carl and Walter, I left happier. And, the Man in the Moon prop got a little face lift and L-bracket feet to boot.
Common courtesy. It’s not so common anymore. I have to admit that I am not always a good example. But even I can take note from gentlemen like Carl and Walter. Thanks guys. Because of your example (your little signs) I am going to try a little harder to make common courtesy not so un-common.
Oh, and Home Depot on Hillsdale in San Jose – do these guys the courtesy of giving them a raise.
They are starting to put ads on our blog. We do not approve these and are not getting any residuals whatsoever, so I apologize for the content. I’ll see what I can do about it.