Lost Art of Courtesy

Have you witnessed an act of common courtesy recently?

Do you find that such a self aware act warms your heart and gives you hope for the civility of humanity? I think that courtesy lived out in tiny ways every day is what weaves us together as humans. To consider the feelings of others. To see another person as a person with needs, concerns and dreams like yours is the greatest micro celebration of peace between people that exists.

The Bantu people of Subsahara Africa have a delightful word that captures this way of being that spawns the behaviour of courtesy. They call it Ubuntu. It can be translated into English as “I am because we are.” Here is an example.

I was settling into my seat for an overnight flight from Toronto to London, England. It was one of the big jet liners, a 777, that configures with 3 seats on each side by the windows and 3 seats in the middle. I was on the aisle of the center section of seats. Two rows ahead of me a couple was settling in with an 11 month old baby. When most people had stowed their goodies and the overhead bins were up, the father stood up and made an announcement to everyone seated in his vicinity. He confessed to the joy and challenge of traveling on our 7 hour overnight flight with a small baby and that while they would do their best to help their little guy settle into nighty-night there were no guarantees. As a preemptive compensation he unwrapped a box of orange disposable industrial strength ear plugs and proceeded to hand them out to interested parties seated within the potential, “crying zone.”

I felt a great sense of gratitude for his consideration and told him so a little later in the flight. He said that he didn’t want to be the kind of parent that lived in what he called a “baby bubble” and wanted to consider others needs as well.

When I returned from chatting with him the couple I was sitting with had just received their in flight meal. I noticed they were just sitting looking at their meal. I asked if everything was all right and they told me they were just waiting until I was served. Common courtesy is alive and well so keep an eye out for it or better still be the sort of person who puts ubuntu into action everyday with every relationship you encounter. A little micro peace in a crazy world.


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