It’s that time of year again -- over-scheduled calendars, holiday meal preparations, family gatherings, and lots of extra shopping. It’s a time when to-do lists stretch long and patience runs short. This is the time when we all especially appreciate the courtesies extended by others. When others are lifted by the thoughtfulness of us. Good manners can ease social tension, strengthen relationships, and basically help everything in life run a little smoother. Social grace encourages more of the same, bringing a spirit of unity in a sometimes- hectic world.
My husband and I just returned from Europe, and were warned that we might be met with rudeness. I am happy to report that we were treated with kindness everywhere we went. People were happy to assist us with the transit systems, give us directions, and count out our change. At one point a nice young man asked us how we were being received by his fellow Europeans, encouraging us to be honest. He was pleased that we were enjoying everyone’s hospitality. Our trip was successful in large part because of the good manners and helpfulness extended to us, and we were made to feel welcome in a foreign land.
In considering some of the stresses of this holiday season, a few key situations come to mind where we can focus our good behaviors, bringing good will and kindness to those in our community:
Social Graces. In Europe are transit stations signs that say, “Mind the Gap”, referring to the gap between the train and the platform. It means be aware so you don’t stumble, hurt yourself, or lose something. In America we say “mind your manners” perhaps so we don’t stumble or hurt ourselves or others socially. Be mindful, be aware. Did someone send you an invitation with an RSVP request? If so, respond so they know if they should plan on your attendance. That simple courtesy helps them determine how much food they might need for their special event. Beyond the basic Please and Thank You, be mindful of those who may need your assistance and your kindness. Is someone sitting alone? Are they new and looking confused or lost? Just a moment of your time might make a world of difference to someone else. Ask yourself this question next time you’re at a gathering: Am I monopolizing the conversation? Do I know anything about this person to whom I am speaking? Let others tell their story – ask about them or their family. You’ll be surprised how quickly they warm to you, and how much they will enjoy the conversation.
Driving. OK I’m just going to come out and say it: the turn signal is a fabulous invention, and it is so polite to let people know when you are planning to make a turn. Oh, and by the way, it’s the law. Driving around town, especially during the holiday season, can be a tense and frustrating situation. Do your best to be courteous to other drivers: let someone in, don’t pull out in front of another car (especially if you drive slowly), and most importantly, be patient with other drivers. Recognize that we all make mistakes. If we have been the rude driver we can acknowledge that by waving to the driver we may have offended. Simple courtesy while driving isn’t just the polite thing to do, it is also a matter of safety. These simple driving habits can make a difference in your overall attitude and well-being when navigating through congested traffic.
At the end of this recent trip my husband and I took, I had the pleasure of being the recipient of someone’s generous manners: While waiting for my flight home, I had a handful of coins that I needed to get rid of. I went into a shop and bought snacks in the amount that I thought was about right. At checkout, I laid my coins on the counter and proceeded to count, feeling quite inadequate with the task, and worried that I was going to hold up the line. The kind woman at the register asked if I would like her help. I gratefully replied in the affirmative, and she proceeded to count all that was needed, cooperatively leaving me with just a couple of coins. Her graciousness invoked in me a very heart-felt thank you for her patience and assistance, to which she replied, “You’re most welcome, have a wonderful flight, darling.” I left that country with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.
As the song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of year. A time when we should all have a smile on our face and warmth in our heart. This is the season of goodwill, of kindness and generosity. I sincerely hope we all are considerate and thoughtful of each other. A little bit of grace goes a long way for another. As we are all travelers in this life together, may we be aware and mindful of each other’s needs. I wish you all a lovely, brilliant, smashing holiday season, and may you be a darling to everyone you meet.
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