Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous. (1 Peter 3:8)
I want to use this post to address a problem that I believe has reached epidemic proportions in our society. That problem is the basic lack of common courtesy that marks about half the things people do these days. On a list of my pet peeves, this one ranks very high.
I really couldn’t begin to name all the examples where this lack of courtesy is exhibited, but let me start with some simple ones from the realm of communication. If a person calls you and wants a return call, call them back. If a person sends you a text that requires a reply, send a reply. If a person sends you an email that needs a response, email them a response. C’mon people, this isn’t that hard.
And, please, don’t come to me with that worn out, lame excuse, “Well, I just got so busy.” Listen, we’re all busy. It’s a busy world we live in. So stop being so arrogant as to think that you are busier than the person you are ignoring. You aren’t so busy that you can’t take a minute or two and return a phone call, a text, or an email. Trust me, if you make such returns a priority, you’ll be amazed at how you can find time to work them in.
As a second example of the problem that I’m describing, let tell you about something that happened to me last fall during high-school football. Ryan was a freshman playing on our j.v. team, and one afternoon I went to pick him up at practice, which was supposed to be over at 7:00. So I got there a few minutes before 7:00 and waited. Then I waited some more. Then I waited some more. Then I waited some more. It was now close to 7:30, and neither Ryan nor any other player had come walking out of that locker room. Keep in mind now that I’m just one of a parking lot full of parents who are waiting on their kids. It is, after all, j.v. football, so it’s not like a lot of the kids had their drivers licenses.
Well, at some point the door to the locker room finally flung open and the players started streaming out in droves. When Ryan got in the car I asked him, “What took so long in there?” He then informed me that an assistant coach had taken it upon himself after practice to give one of those “manhood” speeches that football coaches live to give because they think of themselves as great molders of men. I know the speeches well because I myself have given a few of them during my days of helping coach youth-league football. I eventually stopped giving such speeches because I came to realize that today’s kids couldn’t care less about them. By the way, in case there are any coaches reading this, please take note of the report that Ryan gave me about the speech he heard. When I asked him if he got anything out of what the man said, he answered, “No.” When I asked him what the speech was about, he said, “I don’t know, just a bunch of stuff I’d heard a million times before.” When I asked him if the coach used any profanity, he grinned and said, “Yes, he used seven curse words. I counted.” Meet the modern-day kid. Vince Lombardi would have a hard time relating to him.
Even though I could say a lot about cursing in front of highly impressionable high-school boys and being a good role model, I’ll let that go for now and stay on subject. Can you understand the sheer lack of common courtesy that oozes out of an assistant coach boring his players with a profanity-laced speech for some twenty minutes while a sea of parents sit in their cars out in the parking lot worrying about their kids’ lack of supper and amount of homework? I assure you that if you want to teach genuine manhood to a bunch of teenage boys, that ain’t the way to do it. If you want to give a useless General Patton speech at the end of practice, either cut practice short or get word to the parents that pick-up time will be at 7:30, not the usual 7:00. Being a coach doesn’t make your time more valuable than that of those parents. Get over yourself.
But please don’t think that this lack of courtesy extends only as far as a high-school locker room. Like I said, I couldn’t even begin to name all the relevant examples. So let me mention just one more and then I’ll wrap this up. A few days ago we took the boys out to the local pool. As usual the place was pretty busy and the spots where women could lay out in the sun were somewhat limited. That meant that some ladies ended up doing their sunning in the vicinity of the diving board. You know where I’m going with this, right? I watched as some heavy-set dude absolutely drowned a woman with his cannonball. You say, “Oh Russell, he probably didn’t mean to do that.” Yes, he did. He actually jumped off toward that side to make sure that he nailed somebody. You say, “Okay, teenage boys do stupid things. We were all young once.” You’re right, but I’d estimate this guy to have been in his thirties. You say, “Well, that woman probably didn’t mind get splashed. She knew it was all in good fun.” Yeah, right, I guess that’s why she jumped up and fussed.
You see, nobody likes being on the bad end of a lack of courtesy. So why then has our society sunk so low in this department? I suspect it’s because somewhere along the line people started giving as good as they were getting. They don’t return phone calls, texts, or emails because nobody returns theirs. They don’t care to flippantly waste other peoples’ time because they’ve had their time flippantly wasted. They don’t care to splash unsuspecting sun-bathers at the pool because they figure that someone would do it to them if they got the chance.
But this post is my way of sending out a challenge for the madness to stop, and I’m asking you the reader to pick up that challenge. Go ahead and let that car pull out in front of you. Life as you know it won’t end. Put that grocery cart in its place properly. You might just save someone a door ding. Pick up what’s left of your nachos and popcorn after the game and find a trash can. That will keep someone else from having to do it. If you say you will be somewhere at a certain time, be there at that time. Don’t keep people waiting. If someone lets you borrow something, get it back to them promptly. They don’t want to have to hunt you down to reacquire their property. Hold the door open for an elderly person. You’ll be aged one day yourself and you’ll want someone to hold the door for you. Do you hear what I’m saying? This world is a hard enough place without you adding to the hardship, and keep in mind that if no one else is watching, God is.