When did we lose our manners? As a people, when did we start treating each other with anything less than respect? Was it when the “gen-xers” decided they would raise their children differently than the baby boomers had raised theirs? Was it when the children of the “xers” where allowed to verbally and behaviorally disrespect their parents in the name of self-expression?   Was it when we started to see violence on the news, as a steady diet rather than as the shocking exception to how people were thriving in the world?  Was it when we became so desensitized because it “is a tough world out there”? I don’t mean the question to be rhetorical. No, I mean, really, when did we lose our manners?

As I am writing this on a plane, a very large man sitting in the window seat climbs over another man who is in the aisle seat. The man he climbs over doesn’t get up and doesn’t seem to mind that the very large man pushes all sorts of body parts against his face and chest. A woman struggles to lift her luggage while five men, I counted them, sat and watched. It was another woman who sprang to her feet to help.

From now on, when I drive in a city that is unknown to me, I want to get a big sign and put it in the back window that reads “tourist,” so people stop beeping at me because I am not driving over the speed limit. Chances are I am lost, again!  It doesn’t help to have some mongrel mutt give me the finger.

When did men stop walking on the outside of the street or women thank a man for stepping up to help her with a door, a suitcase or a smile?  What has happened to us?

There are certainly parts of the country where it is much better than others. I like Texas. The men let me go first, open doors and would no more run me down on a sidewalk trying to get somewhere than they would spit on their mothers. The Midwest is also a lovely place to be. Oh, I am very much for everyone being responsible for themselves, but being nice to one another is a dangerous thing for a society to lose.

I have discovered that the vast majority of people are nice, or polite, or at the very least civil when they are in their own space, office or home. But, when we get into large public spaces we seem to be leaving our civility, indeed the very tenants of our culture, at home hidden under the bed. What is happening to us? Whatever it is, it needs to stop. We are demeaning our fellows and that is just wrong.

I like being nice. It tickles me. I am acutely aware that when I am nice others often underestimate me or even infantilize me. That amuses me. When did being nice mean you had a slightly less than average IQ or needed to be treated with kid-gloves because you are too naive not to be protected from “bad people”?

Yup, I like being nice. I like seeing the life behind someone’s eyes when they smile back at me. Or I like feeling good about myself when I leap to my feet to help someone who is struggling with luggage. I like returning money to a checkout clerk who has given me the wrong change. It is fun. It makes me feel good about myself, it is a self-loving thing to do. It is important I like who I see in the mirror.  What about you?