Why Bother To Tread Lightly?

Why Bother To Tread Lightly?

I am grateful that I live in a beautiful part of our country. So far, the lake I swim in is still a clean body of water, the skyline is filled with majestic mountains instead of smokestacks, and pine trees along with the deer population outnumber people. Most folks who live here are conscientious of the environment and want to keep it as pristine as possible. As a matter of fact, on one of the trails I hike in the summer and x-country ski in the winter stands a very old tree with the plaque nearby that reads, “Please help us to protect this special tree. It works hard to live here, and soil compaction from your footsteps harms its fragile roots.” 

What Does Your Plaque Read?

Each time I stand under that old tree and consider the words on its plaque, it causes me to pause. What would it be like if we were as concerned for one another as we are for preserving our natural and beautiful surroundings. If we carried a plaque, what would it say that might help to remind others to treat us with care? 

Granted, it is hard to live in our world and sometimes people do step on us accidentally, as well as on purpose. Either way, giving others a wide berth, a bit of understanding and a little forgiveness keeps a mutual feeling of civility between people. Though we may think everyone is aware of common courtesies, they do not seem as common any more.  “Please”, “thank-you”, “excuse me”, and “I’m sorry”  are small words, but when used, they make a big difference. 

Noticing others and giving a friendly wave, smile or nod when walking by them lets them know that you see them. To acknowledge and greet another person, even if they are a stranger, is a simple act of kindness. Ignoring them is terribly rude. 

It is easy to see when someone needs a helping hand. Opening a door for an elderly person, pulling over when a driver is in obvious distress, stopping to pick up something that someone has dropped or helping to catch a dog on the loose are all simple and uncomplicated ways we can be helpful to others. 

Finally, there are those who don’t look as though they need help, but you get a sense that they do. Maybe they need a listening ear, a word of encouragement, or some wise counseling. Knowing how to help can be difficult, but knowing they need help is easy to detect. 

If I were to wear a plaque it might say something like this— “Thank you for making eye contact with me, thank you for taking a moment to smile. Thank you for a kind word, but mostly, thank you for acknowledging that we are both human.”

Why bother to tread lightly? It is worth it to remember that we are all fragile in some way or another and a simple act of kindness keeps our footsteps from tromping one another down.


Why Bother With Common Courtesies?


Why Bother With Common Courtesies? 

  Merriam Webster tells me that a common courtesy is, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.”  I don’t believe the knack for practicing common courtesies is something we are born with. Yet every child knows when they’ve been treated impolitely. How many times have you heard, “That’s not fair,” shouted from the mouth of a little child? Innately, I think we all know how we should be treated, but treating others with commons courtesies is not necessarily intrinsic. 

If Parents Don’t Teach Common Courtesies, Who Will?

Raising my sons, I knew it was up to me to shape them into civil human beings. I’d read a book from an author whose forte was the subject of parenting and he impressed upon me that we are just one generation away from producing a riotous and discourteous society. 

At times, teaching my young sons to say the simple words, please and thank you, became a bit of a wrestling match. Though I could give them “the look” to remind them to say, “please,” when they’d ask for another cookie, when they’d grab hold of the sweet treat, I didn’t let go until they’d said, “Thank-you.” Sometimes the cookie crumbled, and other times it did not. Eventually, they caught on and politeness was instilled. 

In my classroom, I get a few students who forget how to be polite. But it only takes one or two bright and mannerly children to remind them how it is done. When delivering corrected papers to a students’ desks, I’ll start with one or two of the most well-behaved and mannerly students in my class knowing I will receive a gentle thank you from them. Their thoughtful words then have a domino effect on the rest of the class. I’ll get twenty more, “Thank you Mrs. Luikens,” as I work my way up and down the aisle delivering papers and they’ll all get a teacher’s smile.  

One of my more polite students began saying, “Have a nice afternoon, Mrs. Luikens,” when dismissing him for the day from my classroom. Now, that is everyone’s habit as they go out the door. Good manners carry a lot of influence in creating a pleasant culture in the classroom as well as making their teacher happy. Who doesn’t want a cheerful teacher?

My husband, a builder, takes pride in carefully crafting each and every structure he builds. From million dollar homes, to modest homes and garages, he uses the same care in measuring, cutting and leveling walls, floors and roofs. He’s just doing his job, but when a client says, “thank you,” then he knows just how much they appreciate his talent. Building for grateful people makes his job site a pleasant place for everyone.  

Common ordinary people do common ordinary jobs, day in and day out. But, when we tell someone thank you, their smile can be as bright as a colorful bouquet on a gray January day. Saying thank you is free, receiving it warms the heart and an atmosphere of  gratitude makes a better space for everyone. 

Why bother with common courtesies? It is worth it to say thank you. The smile you get in return just might brighten up your gray January day.