Maybe it is just as simple as saying that nowadays, instead of writing a letter of thanks or appreciation, what do we do? Grab the phone. Oh sure, it is nice to hear the voices of children, grandchildren, friends -- but you can't save a phone call and enjoy it again and again as the years go by. Truth be known, the decline in letter writing seems to parallel an even broader decline -- the vanishing of simple good manners. Do you agree?
Being of the female gender, I can agree with those who say we sometimes miss being treated like a lady. We enjoyed the days when men stood up when a lady entered the room. We liked to have doors opened (not that we can't open them ourselves), but it just feels nice to be treated special. And, no, we are not offended at all when a gentlemen, walking by our side, walks on the curbside of the sidewalk even though we no longer need protection from runaway horses.
There is a lot to be said for the good manners and social decorum so prevalent in the good old days. It just seemed to make the world a nicer place for all of us, because good manners are just a way of showing respect for other people. Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
There was a time when ladies didn't use gamey language. Women were brought up to have one set of manners. A woman was either a lady or she wasn't; there was no female equivalent to the boys-will-be-boys contest. The use of four-letter words by a lady was unheard of, and gentlemen didn't curse in their presence. It wasn't so much a matter of prudishness as a matter of mutual respect.
Remember when company came, children were expected to greet the guests, and on some occasions, even shake their hands, and then vanish? It taught them not only manners, but also the fact adults rated their own special time of sharing together -- a time when the grown-ups could get wrapped up in serious conversations without interruption.
"Respect your elders" was the rule. As a general rule, kids didn't call their parents by their first names, and certainly didn't sass their Uncle Herman, even if he was a trifle testy at times. Teachers always were known as "Miss," "Mister" or "Sir," And, when we did get out of line, Dad didn't have to say a word. He simply nailed us with his special death-ray glare, which told us plenty. We knew what it meant. Our manners were seriously lacking and not one more peep would be tolerated.
The day of "good deeds" was constantly ongoing. People got up to give their seats on buses and trains to someone elderly, pregnant or disabled. Boy Scouts were everywhere -- helping old folks across the street, carrying their packages for them.
Maybe these were the "kinder, gentler" days President Bush was noted as saying he would like to see again. Maybe it is all the essence of simple good manners, being kind to each other, respecting each other. Like a teacher once told me, the reason he wore a nice shirt and tie to class was out of respect for the school, out of respect for the pupils and out of respect to himself. He knew respect is a two-way street. Give it, and you will receive it. Maybe some of you will remember Mr. Brickley from years ago. I do.
Nowadays, we never allow ourselves the convenience of being temporarily unavailable, even to strangers. With telephones beeping, people subject themselves to being instantly accessible to everyone at all times -- and, yes, it is the person who refuses to be on call, rather then the impatient caller, who is considered rude.
Many of us see parents, with a youngster in tow, enter a business and see the clerk glance at the child and say, "Is it all right to give the youngster a treat?" As a general rule, the parents will agree, whereupon the clerk dispenses the goodie.
Invariably, the parents will instruct, "Now what do you say?" And the child dutifully intones, "T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U!" The clerk smiles, the parents smile and the child smiles, everyone is happy. Children are natural-born mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners in any other sense of the word.
Emily Post really said it the best when she wrote, "Manners are sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
And yes, good manners are the noise you don't make while eating soup. We might feel that the task of inventing manners is so extremely difficult because it is a folk custom with people who have emotional ties to their youth. Is that the reason for hostility between generations, the change that happens?
Do you suppose there is still a chance we can restore some of those welcome courtesies before they become forever extinct? Is there a chance we could slow down enough to care about one another again? Is there the possibility we could encourage the news media, the television stations, the newspapers, radio stations, all forms of official communication to open the door to courtesy and fairness?
Are there doors of opportunity available for the public to inform these entities that we are sick and tired of all the bashing that occurs on a daily basis and instead encourage them to highlight the positive eons that exist in our world? Would it be possible to incorporate the words of Mark Twain into our daily lives when he said, "The world owes you nothing, it was here first," and get off our duffs and work for a living instead of standing around waiting for freebies and handouts while our children and grandchildren view our actions?
We are seeing outbreaks of war and violence across the whole world. We are seeing all kinds of human misery. We become frustrated, frightened, concerned, feel worthless as we are exposed to the graphic streams from the television, earbuds and computers, which enter into our hearts and minds.
The present and the future seem terrifying. So, what can we do?
Well, with positive transmission thoughts, it is possible to bring things back into focus. We can bring it all back!
It is time for an outbreak of courtesy and kindness and who better to get it rolling than those who so clearly remember the days when those virtues were more common. Maybe it is the time to treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you, not because they are nice, but because you are. Respect can be earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained whereupon loyalty is returned.
Too often, even though truth is always with us, we drink from the cup that suits our taste. But, we need to maintain faith in the fact we all have a purpose in life, and it is up to us, and us alone, to make it happen.
Instead of just saying, "Have a nice day," make it a nice day for someone.
Pick up the phone, give that lonely person a phone call. Buy a watermelon, cut it in half, share with your neighbor. Cook a big pot of soup, take it to shut-ins. Hold the door open at the stores, church, everywhere.
Show respect to your country, your flag, your maker, and let this respect be known in your words, as well as your actions, remembering all the while that actions speak louder than words.
We can bring it back again when we remember good manners are as simple as being kind to one another. William Arthur Ward summed it up best: "Our words reveal our thoughts. Our manners mirror our self-esteem. Our actions reflect our character and our habits predict the future."
The simple, meaningful words "Have a good day," said with complete sincerity to everyone you meet, should get us all started back on the right track once again.
Without a doubt, I am not the first one to say "Have a good day" and end it with "God bless." Hey, I don't know about you, but I feel better already.
Nadene Albrecht resides in Russell and is a retired real estate broker.