Courtesy? Why bother…

The couple sat across the aisle and I noticed that an eye mask-ear plug combo device was on the floor by her feet. The nice thing to do was to point out that one of them had dropped their eye mask, which I thought, they might want for the longish flight we were waiting to board. I mentioned the location of the lost mask. As a result of some foot shuffling the woman was now stepping on the mask, but I mentioned this as well so that they could locate their lost goods. They both looked down, she said, “thank you,” and then not finding the item they looked at each other and looked at me, annoyed it seemed, to say, “there’s nothing there.” “You’re standing on it,” I said. They shuffled some more and found the mask. And then they were really pissed at me: “That’s not ours, I don’t want that, it’s been there since we sat down!” The mask was summarily shoved further under the chair and the woman hurrumphed back into her seat with her giant pretzel. “Oh,” I said, I thought ‘why didn’t you pick it up and deal with it,’ but I kept that in my head.

A few minutes later a gentleman walking by actually picked it up and offered it to the woman. I thought that was extraordinarily kind of him given that it was on the ground at the airport. “That’s not ours, we don’t want it!” was the shout from her husband. “Just trying to help,” said the man. And thus courtesy was killed a little more and a little more simply by a lack of general appreciation.

Social functioning seems to have less and less consideration for the people we are sharing this planet with. We are a society of lots of me’s which I don’t totally understand since so many kids play team sports these days. Last time I checked teams were a group of people working together to achieve a goal, literally. Of course I have seen youth sports, not so long ago my children were participants and only rarely is there actual unselfish cooperation or team celebration. Every team seems to be a community of individual superstars all of whom must suffer the indignity of playing with lesser athletes and being held back from olympic and professional glory. Ah the struggle of U12 soccer, or 7 year old little league (where they actually draft players). So I guess that in a world of people who have decided certain 10 year olds will just never cut it on the pitch I shouldn’t be surprised that someone is yelling at me because I bothered them about a lost item that was not their lost item.

Being considerate is about being polite, kind in your approach to those around you, it is about considering the people, the place and the things that are beyond yourself. It does not mean you have to be a doormat and just do whatever someone else wants or give up all comfort for yourself to accommodate another’s needs. It means consider how you fit in, understanding that it’s not all about you. So the first time someone says look at the mask on the ground, you say ‘oh thanks not mine but let me pick it up and take it to the counter in case someone comes looking for it,’ because that is what you would like someone else to do for you if you lost something.

I heard this thing once, it went like this: treat others the way you want to be treated. Maybe you have heard it too? Most of us don’t want to be treated badly, or yelled at, or to lose our things. So in this sense it is all about you: think to yourself, ‘what would I like if I were in this situation’ and then act accordingly. It requires a tiny bit of imagination, but it’s not hard once you get the hang of it, and then maybe we all just get a little nicer to each other and maybe we don’t do crazy things like bench an eight year old because you can just tell they are never going to be Beckham anyway, or yell at someone for offering help, or ignore people who are suffering. It’s all connected. So are we.

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