I think I’ve written about manners and the way people behave way too much over the years. I’m starting to get a little tired of myself, actually.
But heck. What happened? Manners seem to have gone out the window even more so in the last few years.
I didn’t think having good manners was rocket science. Wasn’t everyone raised with even a little bit of attention to manners? The more I bring it up and discuss it, the more blank stares and “what are you talking about” looks I get from people.
Maybe I’m being unrealistic. Tell me if I am.
My grandma used to say “I met him on the street and he never said hello, goodbye, kiss my foot or anything.” I think that’s how it went. Her point was, the person she attempted to greet on the street said nothing and obviously had inferior upbringing.
Grandma was always impressed with good manners, and she and grandpa instilled it in their children and grandchildren.
We waved at everyone we passed on the country road whether we knew them or not. We even waved at people in town from time to time. We all had pretty good table manners. We all said “No, thank you.” Most people I knew growing up would never pass someone on a sidewalk or in a hallway without at least making eye contact and smiling or nodding. It just wasn’t done.
There used to be a gentleman in town who was of the old-fashioned generation. If he was walking down the sidewalk with his wife, he walked on the correct side of the sidewalk. Did you know there was a correct side of the sidewalk? A real gentleman walks between the street and the lady he is with.
That same man used to tip his hat to every lady he passed, calling each one “ma’am.”
And the ladies loved it. He was noticed and appreciated by grandma, of course.
I used to think it was a new and different generation of people who had forgotten manners. But really, I’ve noticed all age ranges.
Michelle and I have walked down the street in the town we used to live in and had people pass in close proximity. We made eye contact and were ready to smile, but the person just walked on by – usually with head down.
I’ll stop talking about the town I used to live in now, too. But I have to say the place we are in now is much friendlier. Nearly every neighbor in our subdivision waves when we pass by. We wave back. Sometimes, we stop and talk – and we don’t even know one another that well.
My oldest son often asks us if we think we are better than others because we think we have better manners. Not really, but I don’t think it’s wrong to expect even a miniscule amount of nicety from people.
I went to my last teacher’s institute this past week, and the guest speaker was an educator who had worked in inner-city Los Angeles for many years. He talked extensively about being kind to one another and how we just don’t have manners anymore. I kept saying “amen” as if I was in a church service.
As usual, I‘m willing to admit my flaws. I’ve caught myself rushing past someone and barely making eye contact or speaking. When I catch myself doing it, I almost want to run back and apologize. I’ve actually revisited people before and told them I was sorry I didn’t speak.
But let’s face it, we all have the capacity in us to lose our train of thought or wander around oblivious.
This is what I try to remember: you never know what a person is thinking or experiencing. Some folks have mental issues, neurological issues, and so on. Some people are socially awkward and it’s enough that they are actually walking down the hall or on the sidewalk on their own. Some of them have actual disorders or disabilities.
I had a former student approach me one day, and when he walked away I was pretty much brought to tears. He was a student I’d had only briefly in class. He is on the autism spectrum.
He walked up to me to say hello and ask how I was doing. When I asked him the same thing, he said “I’ve been doing well. I always make sure I look people in the eye and ask them how they are. I’ve been working on that. You know what? Sometimes people don’t say anything back, Mr. Tullis.”
I wonder if the people he’d spoke to even knew how hard he worked on social skills. As I said, I was almost brought to tears and it also put some things in perspective for me.
So shoot, I guess we just need to keep being who we are and stop expecting things from other people. If we speak or smile, and the pleasantry is not returned, tough patooties. Nobody knows our situation and we don’t know theirs either.
Besides, we surely have bigger issues to be concerned with. Right, Tullis?
How do you all like how I type out conversations with myself and have them printed into weekly columns?
Did someone mention “ad nauseum?”