Adjusting To A new Normal
I can’t help but notice the sharp contrast between when we were growing up and now. You know what I mean—common decency and a moral compass. When we were growing up, there were forms of etiquette that were expected and—in fact—mandatory. You either practiced them or else. These expectations were practiced nearly everywhere you went and were stressed by our parents, grandparents and mentors. “Please, Thank You, and You’re Welcome” were an ordinary part of life. You held the door for the person behind you and didn’t mind doing it. And—if you were really on the ball, you held the door and allowed others to pass through the doorway ahead of you. Tacky behavior and foul language in any form were unheard of. The use of foul language would get you cuffed on the back of the head.
Maybe I am old school, but I still practice the once-common courtesies my parents and grandparents taught me a lifetime ago. My grandfather on my mother’s side was the quintessential gentleman. He was a White House police lieutenant for several administrations including FDR and Truman and he did not mess around. If you asked for something and failed to include “please” and “thank you,” with your request it was like trying to get into your personal computer without a password. You always got a respectful reminder, “And what are the magic words?” My grandfather understood mutual respect because that was what he practiced all of his life. When he died, the nurses all said it was “please and thank you” until his last breath. What’s more, he passed that wisdom along to all of us and expected it to be practiced.
There was no opting out.
When I think of my grandfather, Captain Kangaroo and Fred Rogers can’t be far behind because these gentlemen were familiar and trusted sources of comfort. They taught us right from wrong and there was no grey area. It was either right or wrong.
That was my grandfather.
My grandfather and these two television mentors would be shocked at what the world has become. Although we’ve had our share of dark moments throughout history, the world we live in today has become mean-spirited. People have tossed aside random acts of kindness. I was in a shopping center parking lot recently and watched temperamental motorists from a safe distance. People refused to wait their turn at intersections cursing and blowing horns at one another when it would be so easy to just wait their turn, or heaven forbid, actually yield to someone else.
I can’t be certain when regard for others began to slip, however, I suspect the slide began in the 1970s when we started boarding airliners in tee-shirts, torn blue jeans, and sandals. Long about that same time, school dress codes began to fall off the rails too. That whole suit and tie Sunday best thing went away along with common decency and regard for others. Not long ago I was boarding a plane in Baltimore and watched people climbing over each other in line with no spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. One woman commented to me on how discourteous people were with each other in line, then, she promptly cut in front of me and marched right onto the plane. WTH?
We’ve lost the really important elements of human behavior—mutual respect and regard for others—and it is appalling. Presidential Candidate Hubert Humphrey (1968) said a society without order will not stand. He was right. There have to be rules, laws and mutual respect or it doesn’t work. It becomes anarchy and total unrest. However, there’s no reason why we can’t get these elements back given a little practice. It begins with two people at a time in baby steps. If you practice any action for at least three weeks it becomes habit. It can become a good habit.
I know you’re in a hurry to get into Target or Walmart—however, how many seconds would you lose holding the door for someone or allowing them to grab the last shopping cart? I’ve found the world is full of givers and takers, with most of us being takers. I believe in paying it forward in nearly everything we do and it’s so easy. If you practice paying it forward enough in your daily routine, you will be amazed at how frequently it comes back to you ten-fold. And, giving is so much more rewarding than receiving because it makes you feel whole.