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Do Unto Others

It seems to me that a lot of people don’t have good manners these days; in fact, a lot of them have dreadful manners, which appear to be getting worse by the day.

I have recently been: nearly knocked to the ground while walking and minding my own business in a shopping mall by a sturdy, assertive young woman busy talking to her companion while apparently taking no notice of me or any other person in her path; nearly run over by the driver of a huge SUV busily chatting away on the phone, totally unaware that I was crossing the street in front of her; and, perhaps worst of all, treated rudely and disrespectfully by the screaming owner of a store to whom I was attempting to return a shoddy piece of merchandise that had fallen apart after a week’s use.

And then, of course, there’s our behavior during the recent election. On the local level: A friend related that she had, for the first time in her life, made the decision to post a placard on her front lawn endorsing the candidate of her choice. Every day, when she returned home, she found that someone had deliberately placed a sticker for the opposing candidate on her sign. Cute? Clever? A bold move on which to be congratulated? No. Frightening, intrusive and anxiety-producing. On the national scene: Whether the race was for Congress, the Senate or the highest office in the land, rude behavior, innuendos, crude accusations and insults bombarded us from both sides. The name-calling belittles and cheapens the voting process, which is the very essence of the democracy of which we claim to be so proud.

One could go on indefinitely, but the fact is that anything seems to go these days, so long as it seemingly works to someone’s benefit and/or so long as one can get away with it. That’s not a philosophy that’s going to contribute anything positive to our lives, liberty or pursuit of happiness. It will, in fact, tear us apart and turn us into terrified snarling beasts who treat one another as if we have no worth. When most of us begin to believe that, we’ll be in real and lasting trouble.

I would respectfully suggest that we seriously begin to focus on teaching our children—and each other—about the “family values” that we appear to have forgotten: That all beings have value, that treating others honestly, with respect, good will and kind intentions will make our world better, and that we as individuals will be happier and less crazed once we begin to stop being so selfish. Our manners will miraculously improve when we begin to tell the truth and demonstrate respect for others. We may even save some lives by graciously allowing some other frantic driver to move into our lane ahead of us without racing him to show how much better we are than he. Can anyone tell me how not letting a driver get to where he needs to get has become a matter of self-respect? I can’t figure it.

Be sure to read the cover report in this issue about handling customer complaints. It’s about what I’m calling good manners and what are really important principles of behavior and interaction between human beings. We need to begin the work of getting it right before we lose the chance.

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