Whatever happened to common courtesy?
When my siblings and I were growing up, “Please” and “Thank you” were mandatory parts of our vocabulary. On the rare occasions we asked for a favor, or assistance, never, ever, would we have done so without the former of the two pleasantries. And when someone did something nice for us, gratitude was second nature, heartfelt and expressed in abundance.
Christmas and birthdays were followed with hand written thank you notes in appreciation of gifts received. We didn’t need to pull out the family’s address book, because we had written so many, the recipients’ addresses were engraved in our brains.
Here in the south, courtesy isn’t something reserved for family and friends.
We wave to strangers as we drive past them, smile and greet people as we walk by them, and strike up conversations with strangers in the grocery line. To those not from here, it’s strange and suspect. And the same holds true when we extend this hospitality when traveling.
Now, even back then, not everyone practiced common courtesy. I distinctly recall more than a few occasions when my mother held a store door open for someone else, with nary an acknowledgement of such.
And I knew what was coming next.
“You’re welcome,” mom would say in response to the lack of gratitude.
Sometimes, the individual would acknowledge with an, “Oh, sorry, thank you!” Other times, they would totally ignore her. Either way, I would be quite embarrassed by the exchange.
Then something unexpected happened. I grew up and became my mama.
Like my mom, I’d act the same way she did when others were inconsiderate or too busy to acknowledge simple gestures of kindness.
We are living in a time in which many people don’t hesitate to ask for favors, for information, for donations of time and goods, sometimes for charitable causes, other times just because they think are deserving of something for nothing. In many cases, the art of gratitude has been replaced with a sense of entitlement. And that is simply unacceptable.
Now, there are some folks who will say that when one performs an act of kindness for another, they should not expect anything in return. It’s here that I disagree.
If I invest my time, my money, my expertise or my kindness on behalf of another, something is, indeed, expected in return.
It’s a simple, heartfelt “Thank you.”
I believe this is one of the most powerful sentences in the English language. It doesn’t cost a thing. But it means everything. And if someone cannot take the time to acknowledge another’s contributions, no matter how big or small, there’s a good possibility that the next time they’re in need, they won’t find too many people willing to assist. Nor should they.
For your time. For your kindness. For going out of your way to do something special. For a job well done. Thank you for being there when your presence and advice were greatly needed. Thank you just for being you.
Even when the outcome of such contributions is not what was desired, it’s important to acknowledge the effort.
“Thank you for taking the time to work on this and provide your input.”
A little goes a long, long way.
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