Tuesday, August 29, 2017

An Essay on Civility

I have been reluctant to write this post because everything seems to stir up powerful feelings that frequently turn to finger pointing and ugly rhetoric. But here goes.
Life and travel have provided opportunities for interactions with diverse people the past few weeks--health care workers, servers, travelers, customers, store clerks, and more.
We're out in California where news reports of protests and unrest made me brace for rude or uncaring treatment. Not so. Not one time.
A few of these multicultural interactions led to a conversation about what we see and hear in the news. One such conversation included a Black sales clerk, a liberal psychologist, a Latino man, and myself. The consensus? None of them felt the media conveyed their opinions or life experience.
They were clearly not fans of the president, but their comments were not angry or hate-filled.
We laughed, worried, and listened to one another. A retail service transaction turned to hugs and handshakes of friendship as we shared the relief of knowing that for most Americans, regardless of color, race, or gender, we are on the same page. We want the same things. We are working for the same things.
I've been conducting a little experiment, following President Uchtdorf's counsel to smile more. I've slowed down in retail lines, and in parking lots, not worrying as much about MY turn, My slot, My place, and what I've noticed is other people do the same.
I've seen greater courtesy, more humor, and more conversation lately among relative strangers, and I wonder if recent, sad events have made civil society more aware of being kind, of breaking the ice with a smile instead of a scowl, of simply being civil.
I'm reminded of the story of the men meeting an elephant for the first time, and how each man's interpretation of that event was so completely singular. The media can build a false reality from a single photo, from one person's perspective.
We live in a time when we can't always believe what is placed before our eyes. The heart and spirit are the true barometers of humanity, and I have confidence that most people are good, and honest, and more likely to help than we realize.
Like in Texas. Amazing. Civility still reigns.

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