Whatever Happened to Kindness?

By: Evangeline Rodenbush


     They say that good manners cost nothing.   So you would think that even in this economic crisis we could still ‘afford’ to be kind and polite.   Apparently not.   For researchers have found that fewer than one in four think that common courtesy is important today. 
     I was reminded of this when I was in Poland a few years ago.   I was in my late 60’s and my hair is almost white, so I’m convinced that I must have appeared older to others than I see myself.  The missionaries and I boarded a train that transports hundreds of people around the city of Warsaw daily.  Seats are quickly taken by those who get on first leaving most standing, holding on to bars overhead as the train moves quickly to the next stop.   As I stepped inside and looked for a bar to hold on to, a middle-aged Polish lady quickly stood up and offered me her seat.   My response was to say,  “No, I am okay to stand.”   But she was adamant that I should have the seat and the missionary whispered to me with a smile,  “It is customary in this country to always give a seat to the older passengers.”   Though a bit embarrassed at being considered an older passenger, I was nevertheless very impressed that there are still people in the world whose custom it is to be kind and courteous.

Simple acts of kindness, such as giving a stranger your seat or writing a thank-you note to someone who has given you something or been kind to you, are woefully in decline. Courtesy isn’t a trend that’s necessarily helped by modern technology, it seems.  The classy and carefully hand-written thank-you note or letter has been overtaken by email and digital methods.   On the other hand, there are those of us who never quite manage to get that handwritten note in the mail.   

It used to be that children were taught to stand when an older person or guest entered the room and to always be willing to give up their seat.   Now, not only do most defiantly keep their seats, but many continue their music, video games or whatever they were engaged in without even an acknowledgement. According to a survey investigating attitudes towards courtesy, few have ever given up their place in line and one in ten often forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’    One in fifty said ‘they have too much on their minds to worry about other people’s feelings and that common courtesy just isn’t a must these days.‘

But the Bible says,  “Be ye kind one to another…..”   and so no matter what the trends of the world are, isn’t it important that we keep courtesy and manners as part of our Christian example and teach them to the next generations?   It will serve our children and grandchildren well.

Have you ever noted how surprised people are when you are kind and courteous?  Such is so unusual in our day that people will often respond in a very positive way.  It will open doors of opportunity for our children who practice courtesy and manners to surge far ahead in every area of life because they are so rare and therefore stand out and get noticed.  Dr. Gary Wood, a social psychologist and author said,  “Good manners and social courtesy cost nothing, yet can have a profound effect on other people.”

I have always heard that it takes eleven good acts to overcome one bad impression.   If the first thing people see in us is rushing, pushing and being too stressed or too busy to notice an opportunity to pay a compliment, express appreciation, acknowledge someone or assist one another, then we must ask ourselves,  “Will we have eleven other opportunities to change our first impression?”  If it is our only encounter with that person, then our ‘witness’ is forever lost.

In these days where there is so much selfishness, loneliness and grief, could it be that our kindness and courtesy could be one of the greatest Christian witness tools available to us?    God help us to be courteous, kind, tenderhearted and compassionate so that others can see Jesus in us!  And God help us to learn a lesson from the Polish people and pass this custom on to future generations.




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