Musings of an old-fashioned guy (emphasis on old). Time seems to pass more quickly when you reach the age where being a "senior citizen" is visibly noticeable.
As my generation has grown older, the number of conveniences has multiplied exponentially. You would think convenience would allow us more time for everything.
Hasn't happened, has it?
Since we shouldn't be so rushed, would that not allow us more time to be courteous? To express genuine concern and appreciation in a personal way? To shut off the TV or put down the phone long enough to write a simple thank you note? To send a birthday card, hold an elevator door, or yield in traffic?
A dear friend who has lived longer than I, but who is much younger in many ways, recently wondered about the appropriateness of a hand-written thank you note in today's cyber-communication obsessed world.
For as long as I have known this gracious woman, she has personified what it means to be a lady in her interactions with everyone. Her question was not meant to be critical of anyone. An "old-fashioned" friend assured her that a hand-written note was more than appropriate.
A text message can express the same sentiments, I suppose. Perhaps the sentiments are just as sincere .... but somehow I am old-fashioned enough to appreciate the time commitment a personalized, hand-written note reflects.
I've wondered if it's possible to be personably impersonal ... doing what is expected but only as a matter of convenience. In more cynical moments (goes with years as a journalist) I think that old-fashioned courtesy is dying out. Its demise may well have started with my generation, fueledby a notion that old fashioned habits are simply for the old. (Please don't wear that shoe unless it fits.)
Maybe the decline in courtesy is an outgrowth of a world where commitment and genuine concern are as fleeting as messages in cyberspace. When we approach a door, my bride does not reach for the handle, assuming I will open it for her. That's something my mother taught me. An old-fashioned notion, to be sure, and never intended to be condescending. From a practical standpoint, if it is pouring rain and she arrives first, she will open the door and hold it for me.
Treating her (and others of both genders) with respect for their dignity as a human being is an old-fashioned notion that my mother demanded and exemplified.
When we were dining out recently, I found myself saying "thank you" to our server each time she brought something to the table. It was her job, of course, but one that deserved acknowledgment. Sometimes folks will respond to a thank you with "no problem." My cynical mind sometimes wonders if it really was a problem for them.
When I shake your hand, I will make eye contact and squeeze firmly, a courteous way to let you know that you are important. If you approach me for the first time when I am seated, I will rise to greet you. Respect, Mama said. Being a gentleman or lady first is an old-fashioned notion, to be sure, but is far more effective than being rude.
During my brief tenure as a substitute teacher, I regularly encountered young people who apparently never learned the value of common courtesy. Some of them mistakenly believed they would earn the respect of their peers by being disrespectful to their elders. Sorry kids, but it doesn't work that way in the adult world.
Good manners, from the dinner table to the classroom to personal relationships with others will go a long way toward making this a better world.
Sorry I can't write each of you a thank-you note; but I will try my best to exemplify courtesy toward those I encounter every day. I'm old-fashioned that way.
Mr. Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife,Barbara, live in Lone Oak.