Anne Horrigan Geary: Bring back civiility

DALTON — According to my old-fashioned, hard-bound dictionary (the college edition of Webster's New World) which I've had since college, "civility" is defined as "courtesy, politeness, or consideration." I guess that's an old-fashioned notion too, as I am having trouble coming up with modern-day examples of that behavior, which was the norm at one long-ago and far-away time.

Examples abound of the opposites: discourtesy, impoliteness, and lack of consideration. Visit any local market and be prepared to play the new version of bumper cars with your carriage, dodging people who are texting on their phones, or yelling into them, or trying to navigate around a group of chatty Cathys and Chucks who are catching up on news of the last millennium while their wagons are circled like the prairie wagons of old.

Waiting for your turn at the deli requires finding a place to park out of the way of the folks who insist on standing in front of the glass cases even if their numbers are dozens away from those which clerks are currently serving. Any don't even think of reaching for an apple or orange while someone else is methodically picking up and examining each one in the pile. If the pile starts shifting, be prepared for a look of innocence which rivals that of a six-year-old caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

When you get to the quick checkouts with your carefully-selected six items, you will doubtlessly be stuck behind the shopper with a full cart, who is impervious to your withering stare the entire time his/her order is being processed. Then, there is the other shopper, who unloads most of his/her order, then remembers a forgotten item, and squeezes by you to head to the back of the store where the item is located. You and the clerk exchange weary glances while the clock ticks merrily away.


If you manage to get home with your sanity intact and eat your supper, do not turn on the evening news. A cadre of charm school drop-outs will provide successive 30-second sound bites along with complimentary acid indigestion. We have turned this nightly nightmare into a friendly game of button, button, who can push the mute button? Or we skip the "news" entirely and escape to the happy land of Netflix.

Being an idealist, I'd like to think there are some ways we common folk can ameliorate the hideous lack of civility rained down upon us every day, and turn some of its insidious aggravation aside. Like people in the recent floods who climbed up into their attics or clung onto tree branches to save themselves, we need to find ways to escape the ranting and raging verbal torrents.


There are three little ways we can all be nicer to each other and build up the battered walls of community. "Please" and "thank you" are the first two seeds of civility. Each and every day we interact with other human beings. We ask for things, they give them. It only takes a second to add a word to our request, and acknowledge our receipt of goods or services. Combine this with a friendly glance or a heartfelt smile, and we are on the way to making everyone's day a little bit better.

If one positive exchange gets your courteous juices flowing, take the next step. Hold the door for someone as you are entering or exiting a shop or office. Let someone enter Cumberland Farms or Dunkin' ahead of you, and they will feel special — as they are, as we all are. Go out of your way to open a door for someone struggling with a baby carriage or a walker. They will immediately see that halo on your head.

As Mother Teresa so wisely said, "We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love."

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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