The word for today is ‘courteous’
I have a word to introduce back into the English language — courteous. The word means, according to Webster, polished manners, gallantry, respect for and consideration of others.
I can honestly say I probably never really polished my manners, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort from my parents. The word “gallantry” might be buried in the Webster graveyard because it has been a long time since someone carried me over a mud puddle or gave me their seat on a crowded subway.
Respect for and consideration of others, however, should return in force to our consciousness. Shame on us if it doesn’t.
How many times lately have I witnessed rudeness, lack of civility and a general lack of decorum? From the arena of politics, sports, and from our homes to our offices, we need to put a halt to downright discourteous behavior. Lord, when we were mean to others, my great grandmother pulled that switch off the cherry tree out back and used it until we learned to be nice.
Of course, that was way back when folks didn’t go to jail for such a misdeed to a child.
I watched the U.S. Open Women’s Tennis Championship on Sunday. Was I disappointed Serena Williams lost her cool? Yes, but then I have been known to slam a golf club down a time or two, so I do understand the frustration when things aren’t going well. Do I agree with her behavior or mine when I lose my temper? No. Was the judge’s call harsh? That is not for me to determine and that is not the point of my words.
What brought tears to my eyes, was when the crowd booed so loudly it also brought tears to the eyes of the winner, Naomi Osaka. I was genuinely embarrassed as I realized those booing didn’t have the respect they needed to be courteous to the clear winner of the tournament. At that point, at least Serena felt some responsibility to quiet the noise. The impolite, insulting behavior of all involved — including the crowd — is the point of my words.
That is one little incident out of many discourteous practices we participate in and accept. How many emails and letters have we sent for information, job applications and inquiries, that someone doesn’t have the courtesy to reply?
The internet provides a way for folks to hide behind the crude behavior. We can say almost anything in the private space between the screen and our face, but would our mouth say the same words aloud to a person? No. Grandmother would get the switch again.
How we behave toward each other and how we teach our children to treat one another is paramount to how we live to become the best we can be. When we lose our empathy, our civility and our care for one another, we lose the goodness of our nature.
Parents need to go back to pinching when kids don’t say, “thank you.” Likewise, parents need to be pinched when they are impolite to another person in front of their children. Ugliness and unkindness will spread like a weed if we don’t control the growth of it.
Taunting, yelling, screaming, ugly gestures and foul words have often earned us the reputation of being “rude Americans.” Is that true? If so, what have we done to ourselves? We are the most generous nation in the world, so why let our irrational, cantankerous, discourteous behavior not exemplify who we are?
I have an idea. Just be courteous. Don’t slam a door, open it for another. Don’t complain about service, instead show patience. Don’t throw a tennis racquet or golf club, instead take a deep breath and continue to play. Don’t type hateful words, instead shout words of kindness. Praise instead of ridicule, and, occasionally, carry someone over a mud puddle.
We must still teach all children to respect their elders, but we must give them the adults to respect. If not, don’t blame them for “their generation.”
I sound like a doggone preacher, but doggone it, I just want everyone to play nice, be nice and put the word “courteous” back into our vocabulary and our nature.