In life, kindness and courtesy are always in order

2021-03-26 12:05:57

What's wrong with some people? I know that's a broad question, and there's no simple answer. It raises other questions-for example,"Which people?" So let me be specific: I'm talking about those people who have appointed themselves guardians of society and who find it necessary to chastise others for behavior they believe breaks the rules. Whose rules? Well, their own, of course. The broken rules (which are not really rules) invariably involve something trivial-like cutting in line. But their triviality does not prevent the self-appointed guardians of society from pitching a fit. They puff up like an angry rooster and attempt to assert authority, as they suppose, over the offender, rather than remaining calm and fostering peace and understanding. I offer two cases in point: One day, my wife and I drove together to a large supermarket in the United States. There was a long line of people outside, as the market was limiting the number of customers inside because of COVID-19. So she got out of the car and walked to the end of the line. I went to find a parking spot. When I returned, I found my wife still standing in line, ensuring our position to enter the supermarket. By this time a half-dozen other customers had lined up behind her. Naturally, I joined my wife in the line. That's when an older man two spots back shouted in my direction:"Go the back of the line! You can't just cut in front of the rest of us!" I turned to face my verbal assailant, explaining that my wife was here in line before him, and we were together. He became increasingly loud and belligerent."Back of the line!" he commanded. Here is where, I'm ashamed to say, I lost some civility. My wife saw the escalating confrontation, as did some gawkers, and in her usual sweet way tried to keep the peace. As it turns out that wasn't necessary, as the line was moving rapidly into the store at this point. It was only about 10 seconds after my wife and I were motioned inside that the old coot was waved in behind us. Wouldn't a little kindness and generosity have been a better alternative for the coot? When I crossed paths with him in the store, I couldn't resist asking innocently:"Tell me, did it take a lot of practice to become so bitter and mean-spirited, or does it come naturally to you?" He looked at the floor and walked quickly away without replying. Speaking for myself, whenever I encounter someone in a hurry, I'm always happy to let them go ahead of me. This just seems the right thing to do for a fellow human. It's the way of social harmony. Life is too short to start fights over little things, or to refuse to help another person. Chinese courtesy is a famous model. Raising my children, I taught them all a mantra, which they can recite to this day as adults. I offer it here to all my readers as something worthy of remembering and applying when encountering little bumps in the road of life: "Kindness and courtesy are always in order." My second example involves road rage. While driving, I turned right into an empty lane, only to find a lengthy line of cars clogging the adjacent far lane. The near lane, into which I had turned, had no cars at all. It was a lane designed to allow vehicles to merge left into the main lane when it was safe. My crime, in the eyes of one of the self-appointed guardians of society, was that I drove my car ahead in the unobstructed right-hand lane (which was perfectly legal) passing most of the frozen traffic jam and finally nudging left into the line of cars at the far end. When traffic was flowing again, a young man in a car passed on my left-half his body hanging out the passenger window. He shook his fist at me and shouted,"Go to the back of the line!" even though that was now impossible. But shouting at me must have had some cathartic effect on him. It gave him the power of self-righteous indignation. It made him the boss. But in truth he was not. I shouted back:"Didn't your mother teach you that kindness and courtesy are always in order?!" I don't think he heard me. Randy Wright