Common Courtesy

I first met Carl at summer freshman orientation, perhaps a month after our respective high school graduations. He was from Newton, MA, had a nice smile and appeared to have an easy-going personality.  I say ‘appeared ‘ to have because he seemed to possess a congenial manner to many people, but not me.

We were teamed together in various activities during that orientation week and he barely spoke a word to me, in fact his conversation was on an as needed only basis.  Although I noted his personality quirk, I didn’t focus on it as I was developing friendships of my own, many that I still maintain today.

When freshman year commenced I would occasionally see Carl around campus, and I soon learned that he was not going to acknowledge that I was a living, breathing human being. That’s fine, Carl, do as you please. I trudged on through college life, eating too much pizza and turkey divan, getting lost in a corn maze and redecorating my dorm room weekly.

Driving home in a snow storm for winter break sophomore year I saw Carl whose car had broken down on the side of a major interstate.  We made eye contact as I drove by.  Many, many years later I swear that he saw my brake lights as I considered stopping and giving him a hand, and consciously that is what I recall doing – prior to placing my foot back on the accelerator.

I can easily, vividly recall that entire experience because it was out of character for me. Common courtesy is precisely that – doing for others what you would like them to do for you. You’ll be pleased and a wee bit weepy to know that last weekend I gave my umbrella to a woman who was caught in a thunderstorm while I was safely in my car, so I consider myself fully redeemed. I have no doubt that she shared and will continue to share that story to many people and more importantly, pass along the kindness, or an umbrella.

The Golden Rule is timeless, relevant and should be consciously practiced. As I say regarding matters of manners, etiquette and civility, kindness is an out-of-body experience.

Two female friends, plus the boyfriend of one are out for the evening, and upon returning to their cars one woman discovers that she has a flat tire.  Do you and your boyfriend wait with the friend who has called the auto club’s roadside assistance, but must wait in a dark, poorly lit area, or hop in your car and take-off?

You have a young, female or elderly passenger whom you are driving home.  Your passenger gets out of the car and thanks you for the ride. Do you wait until the person is safely at their door or inside their home, or did you leave immediately after they exited your car?

You are driving and running behind schedule.  In the midst of heavy traffic, a car is trying to merge into your lane from a side street.  Do you allow them to merge, or act like you don’t see them and inch your car ahead to block their path.

Courtesy and kindness should be common, yet the increasing emphasis on self-centered behaviour is rampant. Too many people believe that their best interests lie within themselves adn they dole out little acts of kindness very sparingly.

What would you do in these situations, and what thought process brought you to theses decision?

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