Friday, December 24, 2010

Common Courtesy: Only for Christmas Past?

I admit to my age...I’m 63. That means a lot of things (for another blog piece, at another time). But among those things is the fact that I have seen a lot of changes during my years. I hope I will have the opportunity to see a lot more things change. I try to keep up, I really do. For the most part, I think I do well in that department. I was one of the first in our small town to get a personal computer, to get email, to get a laptop, and so on. I have a digital camera, a DVR and an iPhone. I have a blog, for goodness sake. I have embraced the trend to communicate more electronically and less with pen and paper. But, recently I have been thinking about things that have changed that are NOT for the better. And that leads me to believe, in those cases, that some things should not be allowed to become “of the past.” I want to give thought to that—because I want to be part of teaching my grandchildren the value of some things that have had a tendency to become NOT valued…things that should STILL be considered common courtesy. I think most would agree, if time is taken to give consideration to these thoughts.

Take “manners,” for example. What is considered “good manners” has changed, and some of the change is simply the passing of time, and the fact that some of the “old” actions considered to be “bad manners” were just silly. In my grandfather’s house, we were not allowed to sing at the table, or to laugh at the table. It was like the quickest way to get in big trouble (always a challenge for my sister and me, for whom almost anything could trigger fits of giggles). He required that orange juice be finished before eating breakfast. Those were silly requirements that never did make sense. Things that he considered “common courtesy” didn’t stand the test of time.

Not that long ago, it was considered “poor manners” for a guy to wear a cap indoors. Some of the “older” folks might still have a problem with that. But, when you come down to it, what was the reason for that “rule of etiquette”? Again, it really didn’t stand the test of time, and today, very few people would have a problem with it.

I could go on with a list of things that were considered rude or discourteous a long time ago but are no longer viewed in that light. I could also generate a list of “today’s” no-no’s  that we could predict might not stand the test of time.

But, my soapbox today is about something that should never become a thing of the past, and that is taking the time to respond with appreciation when something personal and special is done for you. Here’s my case in point, during this Christmas season: When someone gives you a gift, whether it’s tiny or huge, an acknowledgement (and frankly, a thank-you) is warranted. When someone sends you (especially through old-fashioned snail mail) a personal invitation to an event, a response is required (and frankly, deserved)—whether or not “RSVP” is written on the invitation.

The irony in all this to me is that MORE seems to be LESS when in comes to communication. Most of us use multiple modalities these days (facebook, email, texting, cell phones). With these MORE ways to communicate seems to have come LESS meaningful communication in many ways (another thought for a later blog piece). But, it is sad to me that people have all those ways to communicate, and they can’t even use one of those ways to thank their grandmother for a Christmas gift (most grandmothers do have those ways of receiving communication, you know—and if they don’t, there is still such a thing as writing a note, addressing it, stamping and mailing it—probably the method she used to send you that check!). Just use one of those modalities that you already use, and send a quick thanks, for goodness sake.

The same is true for personal invitations. If someone takes the time to personally invite you to an event, it is extremely rude and disrespectful not to even acknowledge receiving the invitation. We facebook and text constantly, mostly about meaningless things (I include myself in this). Common courtesy, when it comes to showing appreciation and being respectful, should not be overlooked. I cannot even think of a good excuse. You can respond these days without even needing to buy a stamp. C’mon.

I see this sad trend happening in the generation of my children. I’m sad to think that the children of that generation may never even realize the value of showing appreciation. And, if the trend continues, that also means they will never experience the joy of being on the receiving end of expressions of appreciation. And, that’s a blessed place to be. So, I’ll stay on my soapbox and pray that this kind of common courtesy does not become a thing of the past.

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