May 14, 2013: A Civil Concoction

International Civility Awareness Month

Civility“Que sera sera, whatever will be – will be; the future’s not ours to see…”  The old Doris Day song has come and gone. Not ours to see?  In fact, it is ours to envision, to assimilate, and to amend.  However, should we continue to wander unconsciously while assuming it is all out of our control and the only thing we can do is view it from afar, then we’ve already accepted “what will be” and really can’t seize any of that opportunity for powerful and positive transition.

What will be? What are unquestionably obvious are the continuous immoral actions of incivility and lack of integrity we observe from sunrise to sundown each day. The society in which we exist has settled to accept and to some degree, conform to these relentless acts of character assassination, deeply rooted cross identity differences, and extreme epidemic of rudeness. The lack of civility within our communities continue to run the gamut.

In 2010 in Lafayette, Georgia, a student pulled an unloaded gun on another student in a dispute over a Twinkie cake.  At South Hadley High School in Western Massachusetts, a 15 year-old girl committed suicide after intense stalking, name calling, harassment, threatened physical abuse and relentless bullying from other high school “mean girls”, who even after her death did not demonstrate any regret or remorse for their actions. Instead, they used Facebook to mock her death and continued badmouthing her around the school.  A 40 year-old school teacher at a Charter School in Houston, Texas, was fired and arrested for attacking and repeatedly hitting, kicking, then banging a 13 year-old pupils head into the wall of a school bathroom – an incident where the remainder of the teachers and many of the students just stood around and watched.

Remember when 51 year-old Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was charged with raping and patronizing a 16 year-old prostitute?  Or the angry traveler who missed his flight connection and threw his suitcase at an eight-month pregnant airline employee?  What about the story of the woman who learned that there was no sandwiches on her flight and punched the flight attendant and pushed her to the floor?  Several years ago, a juvenile dance troupe consisting of 8 and 9 year old girls were praised at the World of Dance Competition by parents, but censured by media for performing a controversial and provocative dance to Beyonce’s, Single Ladies, while [then] 17 year-old child star Miley Cyrus was defended by her father for giving lap dances. And the beat goes on and on and on, bearing witness to these behaviors in countless numbers of other public figures of status and everyday folks alike.  Considering all of the garbage and discourtesies there is to contend with, exercising more civility and promoting integrity should be the priority of our everyday agenda.

Civility is about more than merely being polite though being polite is an excellent starting point.  It is a standard of living.  A sense of morality fosters our highest level of integrity in how we respond in and to the world and how we view ourselves, our bodies, and our minds. Our own awareness and level of respect is heightened when we employ true respect for others. Real civility takes into account the humanity of other people with whom we are engaged; it challenges us to consider, connect, and change.

Etiquette and basic manners have declined tremendously over the years.  We notice it on the highways and byways when the other vehicle is trying to cut us off and at many times, run us off the road, or at customer service centers from McDonald’s to Macy’s, where it appears that you are “disrupting” the cashiers day by simply being served.  Practicing basic manners in public places, [from supermarkets to seminars and tea parties to trade shows], holding a door for the person entering after you, or simply saying “Hello” when you enter into a room – are all simple steps that will induce the channels of social change.

The promise of change can often seem as far away as the stars in the big blue sky.  As a practicing youth etiquette, civility, and life skills coach, I wonder from time to time if my work gives meaning; if anyone’s child is really paying attention in my class.  I embrace divine occasions when I get the opportunity to connect with youth and young adults who are receptive, driven, poised, polished, and sometimes – not so polished and highly unpredictable.  Miracles are always happening.  Students often express their gratitude of how etiquette has made a difference in their lives, how I’ve inspired them or helped them to consider a new way of thinking, being, doing, speaking. They are grateful that I, as a teacher/coach, believed in them but more importantly because now – they can believe in themselves.  While I take no credit for this divine intervention, I do take a moment to consider my position. My heart silently fills with joy and my uncertainties about how I am making a difference become clearer. Only then, am I able to see how the smallest steps bring about the biggest results.

The way I see it, we are all travelers on the same spaceship. The Earth beneath our feet is our Earth.  It belongs to all of us.  The air we breathe is common property too. Yet we spend so much time drawing distinctions, defending divisions, delineating differences, from countries to culture to skin color. We go bananas for borders and boundaries. “That’s my property – that’s yours; this is my land – YOU keep out!”

An act of true civility though, requires honest compromise and collaboration, connection, and change.  We need to build bridges not walls in our communities, and we need to concoct a strong ingredient for change; one that is CIVIL and will grant politeness, prosperity, and peace.  We can rectify the acts of incivility within our world by starting with ourselves and what we can change. We can serve as better examples for our young and seek advice from our elders who possess wisdom and we can modify the way we treat each other.

Yes, the future is ours to see – and to save. Choose Civility.

Love and Light for your Tuesday!

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