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Politeness

I was in the grocery store this morning, minding my own business when I rounded a corner and bumped into a man with an armful of groceries.  He dropped all his loot and a bottle of BBQ sauce flew through the air  and smashed onto the floor. The man shot me an expression to kill and shouted, “Lady, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” I thought of a number of quick comebacks but resisted. I chose to “take the high road” and offered to help him pick up his groceries but he quickly retorted with, “That’s what these guys in the store are paid for” and then he walked away, leaving me with his mess strewn all over the grocery aisle.

Earlier this morning, I came across a really cool and appropriate quote – those words of truth came to me as I stood in that puddle of BBQ sauce.

Politeness is the blossom of our humanity.  Joubert

I think manners matter. Being polite requires a constant awareness of other people’s feelings. Being polite involves humility, thoughtfulness and a bridled tongue.  It’s tough to think of others. Lynne Truss speaks of our culture’s predicament so beautifully when she writes that “we live in an age of lazy moral relativism combined with aggressive social insolence.  Manners are vanishing down the plughole with disastrously wide-reaching consequences.”

I agree. I remember an incident that happened after I had been teaching high school for about five years.  I was making my way through a maze of preoccupied students who were shuffling down a narrow hallway. My arms were full of binders and students were bumping into me, without apology. When I finally arrived at the doorway, the heavy door slammed into my face, after a group of students walked through, totally oblivious to my presence. That was the last straw. I yelled at the top of my voice, “Do y’all live in your own little world?”

Well, that sure hushed the crowd.

I had a good relationship with these students so the awkwardness turned into a great teaching moment.

A quiet and hesitant female voice spoke first. “Mrs. L., we didn’t even see you.” 

“I know…but with an armful of binders, I’m kinda hard to miss, don’t you think?”

Then it happened. A young man in Grade 8 turned to me and said, “Mrs. L., truth be known, everybody lives for themselves. Being polite takes work and unless we benefit, it’s not worth it.”

Whoa.

For a few seconds, you could hear a pin drop in those halls. All the upper grade students just stared at this articulate and bold Grade 8 student… and I let everyone soak in the tension of the moment.

Finally, I broke the silence.

“Food for thoughtlet’s get to class.”

I headed into a Grade 8 classroom and for the entire fifty minutes of Science class, we had a marvellous discussion about the importance of being polite.  Selective membrane permeability could wait for a day.

http://youtu.be/qd0hu4tPyOA


No Comments

  1. Karen Perrott

    Well said!!!

  2. Linda

    Oh boy! I have to share with you my experience last friday night. I was headed into Toronto on the GO Bus. The minute I stepped into the bus my worst nightmare was true….it was completely packed, standing room only for the 45 minute drive. I had my purse, two gift bags to hold AND I was wearing a pair of high heeled boots (what was I thinking) while holding on to the upper railing which was only a “lip”. The bus took off with a jolt and I almost fell and at that moment a younger man put his hand on my arm and asked if I would like his seat. I said, “Oh my goodness, I sure would! Thank you so much!!!” He got up and I managed to squirm into his seat. Twice during our ride the bus came to a screeching halt and almost threw that young man down along with the other unfortunates that had to stand, I know I would have fallen flat on my face had I been standing. I thanked him again when we “landed” in the big city. All night long I kept thinking about his kindness; we just don’t see that often enough these days!!! He had nothing to gain but my thankfulness. Maybe that’s enough for some people.

  3. Loraine Chan

    I taught Gr 7 & 8 Sunday School class for a number of years back in the 80s. Kids then were definitely a lot more polite and aware of the needs of others. Now I’m teaching Gr. 7 & 8, what a difference. They are quite indifferent. I have been reminding them every Sunday to put the Bibles back to the shelf at the end of each class. Yesterday at the end of the class, as usual I have to remind them to pick up the Bibles from the floor. One boy always tried to be nice and picked up all the Bibles. Somehow there was one left on the floor. I intentionally did not say anything and just wanted to see if anyone would pick it up. To my dismay, the students walked over the Bible one after another (there were at least 8-9 of them) and just left. The boy who picked up the Bibles did the same thing. I was shock. This confirms what your Gr. 8 student said “What’s in it for me” mentality. I think I need to have a good discussion next Sunday with my class. Thanks for the insight.

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