My father always preached consideration of others, however; as a child, I understood it to mean consideration of him or suffer the consequences. Addiction was the driving force behind many of my father’s behaviours, and unfortunately, it is a master that serves itself first.
There was little consideration of others in the way my father met his needs, and we were all aware of it. Do as I say, and not as I do, was another of his favourite expressions. My mother, on the other hand, exemplified the importance of mindful relations with others. She was always cheerful, friendly, and treated each person she encountered with equanimity and respect. It was through her actions that I learned the importance of my father’s teachings.
Two stories come to mind that illustrate the power of common courtesy. The first happened while my husband and I were on a recent trip to Vegas. We had stopped for lunch in one of the older, quaint establishments, and were playing the slots. I was on a winning streak, when a young man sat down next to me and proceeded to light up a cigar. Allergic to cigarette smoke, and rendered nauseous by cigars, my first impulse was to show my indignation and storm off, but I checked myself. The young man was entirely within his right, and no matter how despicable I found his habit, that was my problem. So I owned it.
“I’ll tell you what,” I offered. “I am going to do you a favour. I am not able to tolerate cigar smoke, so I will let you have this machine. It’s hot right now.” I kept my tone friendly, with the emphasis on my problem.
He put out the cigar, insisting that he didn’t need to smoke it at that moment. We struck up a friendly conversation, and both won.
My second story involves being on the other end of the courtesy. It happened the day I caught my former husband with another woman. We had been separated five months, and another had warned me about her, but up until this point I had preferred to believe his denials. Seeing the two them in intimate embrace drove the reality home. This was more than just him needing space to “find himself”.
I called my mother to come and look after the kids, and donning running shoes and sunglasses, set out to walk off the emotional devastation I was feeling. I walked with a vengeance, conjuring strength and conviction with each step; all the while releasing the pain in body-wrenching sobs. I walked and walked, oblivious to the world around me, until I could no longer ignore the burning thirst in my throat. The closest oasis was a nearby mall. I circled the perimeter. The last thing I wanted was human contact, especially for anyone to see me in my condition. Need won out. Leaving my sunglasses on for protection – as if they could hide my blatant distress – I headed for the food court. A lone server manned the Taco Bell booth. I headed there, intending a quick purchase and escape.
“Diet coke, please.” My voice cracked, still clogged with emotion. I avoided eye contact.
“Have you tried our iced tea?”
“Coke is fine.” Just serve me the drink and let me get out of here!
“No, really, have you tried our iced tea? It’s the best.”
This can’t be happening. Is this kid dumb? Can’t he see I am wearing sunglasses inside – clearly not wanting communication? I sized him up, expecting to see a cocky young man, bent on meeting a sales objective. Our eyes met. His were full of compassion. He couldn’t be more than sixteen years old, but he held me in his warm gaze, not fazed by my raw emotion.
“Trust me. You won’t be sorry.”
I conceded. He served me the drink and waited while I took a sip.
“Am I right? Is it not the best iced tea you’ve ever tasted?”
I couldn’t help but smile. The iced tea didn’t taste any different than other commercial version I’d tasted, except this iced tea was served up with a much needed helping of human kindness.
“The best ever,” I agreed. “Thank you.”
His smile broadened. “Have a good day!”
It wasn’t only my gait that was lighter as I walked away – my heart was also uplifted by this simple act of kindness.
(Image from Pinterest)