Greetings everyone! I hope that you are coping well during this difficult time for us, as individuals as well as a nation. We must remain positive and believe that although it may seem that the sky is falling, it really isn’t. It was put in place by a mighty hand, and He is still holding it up. “Fear not” (Isaiah 41:10). “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). “Peace I leave with you” (John 14:27). Be encouraged. Stay strong.
Recently, while I was looking at some designated national times for celebration, it seemed to me there’s a day or a month or even a year for almost everything—from National Peanut Butter Lovers Day (March 1) to Act Happy Week (second week in March) to National Nutrition Month (also in March). And we are just coming off Women’s History Month, a time appropriately chosen to remember the milestone experiences, the grand achievements, and even the unheralded accomplishments of women.
As I read about the myriad celebratory days and months, the one that I found particularly interesting was International Find a Pay Phone Booth Day. It reminded me of the immense changes that have taken place in the world during my lifetime. Time was when we could use a pay phone by the roadside to call for help if our vehicle broke down. Some people had no phone at home and depended on the corner pay phone to make connections. I remember waiting by the phone booth in our college dorm for a call from my boyfriend in his dorm across the campus. I doubt that a usable pay phone exists anywhere today. Clark Kent would have to find another place in which to make a wardrobe change.
The disappearance of the phone booth is just one example of the many ways in which our world has changed in recent years. Where are the companies delivering baby diaper service? Or the milkman leaving bottled milk at our door? Gone are the days when we could ride in our cars with a small child in the front without a car seat. Gone, too, are the days when the Social Security Administration would send out Social Security numbers on postcards. When, to make a point during his sermon, an older pastor held up the postcard he’d received many years earlier with his Social Security number on it, all of us unbelievers in the congregation saw it and were amazed.
Once upon a time most radio stations went off the air at sundown. I worked for one of them. There was a “sign on” and a “sign off” time with a “signature tune.” Now the babble goes on twenty-four hours a day.
I thought about these changes and realized that along with them something else had changed. Good manners have gone missing, hardly around anymore, and it’s not just nostalgia for the good old days. Once upon a time, people were, indeed, more well-mannered. Today there is much ugliness and coarseness in word and deed. The vituperative language used on social media is appalling. People are unabashed making derogatory comments about public officials and other individuals in the public eye. Do you think we got accustomed to hearing meanness expressed on such shows as “All in the Family,” Sanford and Son,” and “The Jeffersons,” enjoyed the insults, and found them funny? Perhaps everyone got used to that kind of talk in public on television and after a while felt comfortable using it themselves. Whatever the cause, polite speech on social media has gone the way of the pay phone booth.
Signs of good manners, such as holding the door for someone, allowing women to go through a door first, or giving a pleasant greeting to someone– even a stranger–seem to have gone away. But not quite. Where I live, I’m happy to say that people greet complete strangers with a “Hello” or a “Good morning” and a smile. Men–and women too–hold the door open for others, and they say “Thank you” when someone holds the door for them. This gives a nice flavor to life.
Perhaps in an effort to repair the manners breach, the online Parent magazine has listed 35 tips on good manners for children. I have noted a few that are good for adults also.
*When asking for something say “Please.”
*Do not interrupt grownups who are speaking unless it’s an emergency. (Do not interrupt
anyone who is speaking.)
*The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself or
between you and your friends. (Amen!)
*Be appreciative and say “Thank you” for any gift you receive. (This one prompts me to ask
why stationery stores still carry thank-you cards. In this age of e-mails and texts, a handwritten thank-you card says a lot about one’s good breeding.)
In our current national distress with the COVID-19 pandemic, we should remember the need for good manners, which is really consideration for others. We are asked to sneeze in a handkerchief or in our sleeve, cover our mouths when we cough, and maintain social distance to avoid passing on the virus to others. An important thing to remember as a matter of courtesy is to allow others to share in the resources in the stores during this difficult time–no hoarding.
Good manners are not merely about dining etiquette; they are about treating others with respect and recognizing the dignity and worth of the next person. “Whatever things are lovely, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8), and if we do, we will say and do lovely things as a result, because it is out of the heart (mind) that the mouth speaks.
“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”
Justice Clarence Thomas
NEWS: Southern Writers Magazine invited me to write two guest blogs on their Suite T blog site. One is already posted. The other will be up on April 2. You may find them on the magazine’s website at Suite T-the Author’s Blog.