Tuesday, March 19, 2013

please and thank you

I grew up in a time when manners were considered to be important. Through parents, teachers, and others, you learned to say 'please' and 'thank you,' you learned not to interrupt another person when they were speaking, you learned to respect the opinions of others, you learned to be courteous towards everyone.

But not anymore. On television, members of so-called panels spend the time talking over each other, never letting someone finish their thought, much less their sentences. On the radio, a caller's opinion is treated with derision, laughter, and outright profanity. People shove their way through crowds to get a better position, one rarely hears the word 'please' any more, and 'have a good one' has replaced the 'thank you' that clerks used to say to customers.

Maybe it is time to practice the spiritual discipline of courtesy once again.

Yes, a spiritual discipline. Think about how courteous God is towards us.  God speaks to us in beauty, truth, and grace, sometimes using words, as St. Francis used to say. God treats all of us with respect, letting us know that we are valued and honored. God continues to accept us, despite our best efforts to reject God. God's love is unconditional, steadfast, eternal.

What would our world, our communities, our families be like if we followed God's example of the courteous life. Imagine how people might feel if they heard words of beauty, truth, and grace coming from our lips. What might it mean to someone with whom we fundamentally disagree, if they saw respect on our faces, and heard it in our voices? What lives might be changed if the other felt valued and honored by us, what young person who feels rejected by everyone around her might discover that she is accepted by us? And who among us can't use more unconditional love, much less offer it to others?

Julian of Norwich used to speak of "our courteous Lord," a reminder of the One who walked among us, bringing hope, treating others with respect, speaking words of hope and grace to those he encountered.

Maybe today, we can be just a little more courteous.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

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