The View From 1776
Saturday, December 31, 2005
The Best New Year’s Resolution
A central message of religious Judaism and Christianity is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In our world of frenetic egoism, however, few of us even stop to think how that might be applied to our daily lives. John Lawrence, ever a voice of calm reason, charts the path.
THE UNCOMMONNESS OF COMMON THINGS ?
by John Lawrence
If I am not mistaken, the word common denotes something that is in abundance. It is with curiosity then what type of world it must have been where folks coined the terms common decency, common sense, and common courtesy, because where I live, these are scarce and rare to find.
We all know what the above terms mean, but it is only by our intentional efforts that they can indeed remain common. I have wanted to write a piece on common courtesy for awhile now, because it is sadly missing from most of us.
I was at a mall on Friday, apparently the busiest shopping day of the year. In a time of year where soldiers used to lay down their guns to sing songs with those in the enemy trenches, it seems that our generation has no concept of what the spirit of giving and forgiveness means.
I purchased my lunch and went back to my vehicle to eat in peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy food court. It astounds me that people allow themselves to get swept away in the shopping frenzy. In their defense, I realize that they aren’t even aware of their attitudes or anxiety, but they could easily change their countenance with a little effort. It is simply a matter of being made aware that we have become caught up in the frenzy and are no longer an individual, but just another character in a drama that unfolds quicker than we realize.
I enjoy sitting back and watching people. I never cease to be amazed at our behaviour. I see some screaming at others in the frustration that comes with driving around for what seems as long as hours looking for somewhere to put your vehicle. Others throw their head around in disgust having to wait a whole 15 seconds for a clerks attention. Still others insist on being rude to the salespeople, perhaps in an attempt to relieve their stress level. Being rude, however, does not release stress, it simply adds to it and transfers a lot to some innocent bystander.
The reason I am talking about this is because we have all been that rude person, and they appear in an instant, as they live just below the surface of our skin. We walk around wearing masks of civility, but once in a while, when we allow life to get out of control, most of us allow the mask to slip.
Myself, I have changed my behaviour. It didn’t just happen, it was a conscious effort, an intentional shift in my way of thinking. Common courtesy is now a part of my vocabulary and my actions. I have been practicing it for most of my life, and I think that I have the hang of it. I am now training my children in its usefulness and everyday applications.
When I go to a shopping plaza and begin to get frustrated at the lack of parking, I stop and let someone in, or allow someone to turn in front of me. I smile and my stress level immediately drops. I know that the stress level of the person I was kind to also felt the same thing. I remind myself that we should be kind to one another and I put the situation into perspective. Having to wait for a spot is not the end of the world, and I use the time to unwind a bit. It is amazing.
When I walk into the mall, I always hold the door for the person behind me, and I always offer a polite and sincere ‘thank you’ to the person who does the same for me. When I walk in front of somebody, I say ‘excuse me’.
When it is getting late and I am running out of time for all I have to do, I step back and stop myself. I remember the important things in life. My errands are important but they are not who I am and they are not my life. They are simply things that need to be done, and I will do them as quickly as I can, but they will not define the kind of day I am having.
I find that the more I rush, the less I accomplish and the more stress I add. By placing an unreasonable timeline on the things that I would like to accomplish in a day, I set myself up for a horrible day. I simply will not do that anymore.
I see the people running through the stores; unkind, hurried, and obnoxious. Take any of these individuals out of the crowd and the atmosphere of the mall. Place them in a setting that is serene and calm, and they will tell you that they love this time of year. It is a time of love, and of hope, and of peace and kindness. Now put them back in the mall, and ask yourself if you still believe them.
When you are returning something that you received as a gift this week, and the returns line is 3 blocks long, try the following. I guarantee the results are as stated. Instead of stamping your feet and looking forlorn, smile at the person beside you. Start a nice conversation about something positive. See the salesperson at the counter? They aren’t having fun, either, but you have the opportunity to make their day awful, or just another day at work. When you get to the counter, smile again. Be pleasant and look into their eyes. You will be rewarded by a look of thankfulness, and will undo the stress that the idiot that was there five minutes ago heaped upon the staff. The best part of the whole thing is that when you leave that store, having consciously done this, you will have tended to your own health.
It is amazing what kindness and courtesy can do for your body. You will feel invigorated, stress free, and giddy. Medical research will also support the claims about tending to your own health.
Our moods are mostly determined by our attitudes and our consciousness about them can determine what kind of attitude we choose to wear. Those people who are positive and happy have less health problems and live happier lives. They get the most from other people and they give the most back. Having a healthy, happy society requires each of us giving a darn, and the benefits are amazing.
I think that if you are still reading this article at this point, you are one of those who care. Together, I believe if we teach our children and our grand-children these attitudes, then the courtesy that I speak of could once again be common.