As we traveled last week, I was reminded of the small courtesies that some people are attuned to while others are not.
Opening doors for others is a small matter, but it can always be done. It’s awkward when it’s a door to push, so I may have to go through first, but I can still hold it open for subsequent people. When it’s a door to pull, as I open it I can look around to see if I should hold it for anyone else, especially those who are walking with me. It’s especially inspiring when children who can hardly open the door then hold it for others.
Chairs at tables are another example. Do I always push a chair back under the table? If we’re holding a baby, it may not be easy, but most of the time it should be automatic for us—at meetings or classes as well as at meals.
I was in countless public and private restrooms during our travels last week. I noticed that evidently most people just grab the bathroom tissue they need and yank. I was taught by a dear aunt always to leave enough paper for the next person to get to it easily. I thought a lot of Aunt Deba as I turned the roll round and round trying to find an end to pull.
When we were invited to dinner at the home of our daughter’s biological family, I was impressed at the two young men who were so gracious to us. Not only did they ask, “May I get you a drink?” but later asked if I needed a refill. Those who often host are usually good at that, but it seemed special from teens. (The grandmother who is raising them said, “I’m going to make decent human beings out of them if I die trying,” and I assured her she was on the right track.)
On that same basis, I’ve been with people who start eating a snack or drinking a soft drink without asking if I’d like one, too. Often I don’t, but it’s simple courtesy to offer.
Traveling in tight circumstances made me more aware of where I put my things. I’m used to travel with just the two of us, when I can throw my stuff in the car and not think about how it’s affecting anyone else. But with seven of us in the car, each person had to be careful not to inconvenience someone else. Everyone was very good about it, as far as I could tell.
Someone recently mentioned that they avoid a certain street because cars park so close to the corner that it makes it hard to turn in if meeting another car. Steve is especially aware of that, often parking far away to avoid parking too close to someone’s driveway, not wanting to make it hard for them to get out safely.
Airplane courtesy is another issue. I try never to take on anything that needs to be put in an overhead bin, but when I have some gentlemen always jumps in to help me. I see it over and again with others. Rarely does anyone, man or woman, struggle getting a bag up or down. A stronger or taller person always jumps up to help. I’m sure some travelers are rude, but I was on four different flights last week and saw nothing but kindness and courtesy.
Our nation is experiencing troubled times, and we can do little about it as individuals on a daily basis. But we can continue to make our own little space as kind and gracious as possible, remembering the small courtesies that make everyday living easier.