Strictly My Opinion

The Unkindness Of Strangers – Strictly My Opinion

I wonder sometimes what has become of the world, or at least the part that I see regularly.

One day, a couple of years ago now, I was driving home with my son in the back seat.  I approached an intersection where I had the right of way and prepared to drive straight through. Suddenly a car made a sharp left-hand turn in front of me. I hit my brakes quickly to stop, thankful that my son was in a proper car-seat and securely fastened in place.  I came to a stop inches from being struck by the turning car and hit the horn. The young driver, one of four young people in the other car, stuck his middle finger up at me in response and completed his turn.  He was clearly in the wrong, had almost collided with me due to his foolhardy driving, and yet I got ‘the finger’ from him, rather than any indication that he’d perhaps misjudged the time he had to safely make his turn before I entered the intersection.

Two days after Christmas last year I received a very unkind email in response to a blog post I had made.  The anonymous email address attached to the message did not tell me who the person was. I gathered from the content that it was someone I didn’t really ‘know’…and rather was someone who had found their way to my blog by chance and was reading the posts I made.  They berated me in their email, and when I replied to it, inquiring more about who they were and fully prepared to have a mature exchange with them and even explain myself (not that I am under any such obligation to do so), they went on another rant about the terrible person I am, and how even minimal contact with ‘people like me’ sickens them.  I never did learn who this person really is.

About a year ago I made a solo drive to Ikea. I was hungry upon leaving the store and stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch.  The man in line behind me was ordering his sandwich from the clerk who clearly used English as a second language, and was struggling a bit to understand the customer’s request.  The customer, rather than speaking perhaps a bit more slowly and clearly, chose to insult the clerk and told him, ‘If you’re going to import yourself to this country, learn the language.’ He then turned to me and said, ‘Isn’t that right?’ I replied, ‘Unless your ancestors gave birth in teepees, you’re an import, too.’  He said nothing further to me, and the poor clerk was visibly shaking as he made the man’s sandwich.  I didn’t blame him. I wouldn’t want some loud-mouthed jerk talking to me like that and still have to smile and uphold customer service standards just to hold onto my job.

This morning I read a story in the news about a group at a restaurant who were annoyed by the ‘noise’ a special needs child was making at a nearby table and how they were overheard to say ‘special needs children need to go be special someplace else.’  They didn’t say this directly to the child, nor to the child’s parents, but it was overheard by their waiter who then refused to serve them and may have put his job at risk in doing so.

This is not the world I grew up in and the world where I was taught to respect and be kind to others, even strangers.  This is not the behavior that was presented to me as acceptable in daily life, no matter how frustrated or angry you might be, or how much of a hurry you might be in.  This is not what I was taught for behavior that would display even a small amount of dignity and self-respect in the way you treated others. This is not the ‘do unto others’ that I would imagine most want ‘done unto them.’  And yet, this is the world that we have become.

Whether it’s in person or online, it seems like people have forgotten the manners I naively assumed most everyone was raised with. It’s not just the younger generations in my experience…it’s all generations.  People of all ages and all walks of life have just gotten unbelievably rude in the way they interact with others.  No, it’s not ‘everyone’ and yes, there are plenty of nice people out there, but it seems like more and more are daily joining the ranks of those who have little to no regard for anyone else but themselves.

I am a firm believer in standing up for yourself, and asserting your needs and wants, but when did this ‘trait’ become laced with profanity and rudeness and when did it become ‘the norm’ to berate and belittle others just to get your own way or instead of admitting when you might have done something wrong or simply foolish, even accidentally, and just move on?  When did the golden rule become so very, very tarnished that people will do unto others exactly as they please?

I don’t believe that anyone who knows me would consider me a ‘Pollyanna’ who sees the world through rose-colored glasses.  I have had my own lapses in manners, certainly.  I’ve been rude to people many a time, but I cannot recall a time when it was not without provocation and in response to how I was being treated by them.  Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe I’ve just hopped up onto a hypocritical soap-box without any justification to lambast others for their rudeness and seem to be turning a blind eye to my own.

Maybe that’s the case.  But I do know that I try, every day, to conduct myself in a kind, decent manner when relating to others.

I wait my turn in line in stores. I don’t hold phone conversations when someone is trying to wait on me.  When I am holding up traffic to traverse a cross walk, I don’t dilly-dally and text my friends and give drivers the finger when they wish to proceed on their way while I take ‘selfies’ to share on social media, or turn to giggle with my friends about something and just stand there in the middle of the road. I don’t blatantly ignore ‘right lane must turn right’ signs and turn left and cut off traffic and call out ‘F*CK YOU’ when someone honks at me. I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to wait staff rather than order them about like they are indentured servants existing here on earth to simply do my bidding.  I don’t stiff anyone on tips because they might possibly have a ‘lifestyle’ that I don’t agree with.  I hold doors for people behind me, male or female.  I look at my surroundings when in a crowded place to make sure I’m not the jerk slowing everyone else down because I am too busy paying attention to my phone apps and tablet and weaving from side to side so no one else can get around me.  I try my best to quiet my children in public and not let them run amok and bother others and potentially break things.  I look behind me in stores before I back up to scan a shelf or rack for something rather than just do it and then say ‘WATCH IT!’ when I run into someone I backed into.  If I have a basket full of items in a store and someone has one or two things behind me, I let them go first and be on their way.  If I find that I have mistakenly stepped in front of someone in line, I back off and let them go.  If I’m behind two people in a line and a new register opens up and the clerk says ‘Next person’ I don’t just jump ahead of the person who is in front of me and has been waiting longer than I have…they are next, not me.

None of this is hard to do.  It’s called courtesy. It’s called politeness.  It’s how I was raised.

I, like many other kids, learned ‘the golden rule’ when I was very young. My family was not very religious, but I did attend church for some time in my youth.  These days I consider myself more ‘spiritual’ than religious.  And yet one does not need to sit in a pew nor scour passages of scripture to remember these simple words on a daily basis and apply them to every day life. I recall the lesson of Matthew 7:12 to this day, heathen that I have become.

‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.’

I also recall the words of Edwin Markham….utilized so well by the only soap opera I was ever a ‘regular’ viewer of.

“There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

I only wish more people would follow this.

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2 thoughts on “The Unkindness Of Strangers – Strictly My Opinion

  1. Seth Bowman says:

    Hi. We don’t know one another, but I came across your blog in a search and have read a few of your posts. I just wanted to say that I find your words inspiring, thought provoking and often amusing. You seem like a very thoughtful person with a sensitive soul. I look forward to reading more from you.
    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy your writing. If you would like to get in touch, please feel free to email.

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