Small Courtesies

Amidst the chaos of wire tapping accusations, North Korean ballistic missile tests, proposed budget cuts to so many important federal programs—including the National Institutes of Health, which fund, among other things, research for cures to diseases like scleroderma—amidst all that and more, plus the minor annoyances of daily life, such as discovering that this blog did not publish properly last week (apologies if you subscribe and received a duplicate of last week’s post), I am trying to focus on something positive to keep my blood pressure from spiking.

Like the fact that the guy behind me in the supermarket check-out line smiled and nodded thanks when I placed the metal spacer bar after my food on the conveyer belt, to make room for his groceries.

Or the way that people I don’t know held a door open for me as I was leaving a building this the weekend.

Or how someone graciously allowed me to make a left hand turn from a side street, across busy city traffic, to get in line in front of him for a stoplight.

Small courtesies, the ways that we acknowledge each other’s needs and feelings without fanfare, are essential to keeping sane. More than that, little acts of consideration are the warp and weft of a civil society. When leaders flaunt basic social norms—like honesty and respect for others with different points of view—it falls to the rest of us to strive even harder to be, yes, polite.

Maybe this sounds silly, trivial, like a schoolmarm’s chiding. Etiquette is one of those subjects that has been shoved into the back closet, mocked as an arcane, snobbish concern over which fork to use at a fancy dinner. Those rules are not my concern here. Rather, I’m referring to the deeper meaning of the word. At this time, in this country, with so much social strife and dissension, it’s well worth remembering the wisdom of etiquette maven Emily Post:

“Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.”

Amen to that.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at

Image Credit: Andrew Branch


  1. Paticia Bizzell says:

    I could not agree more, and I’ll go further: habitual courtesy in small things, I believe, encourages respect and kindness when larger issues are on the table. Again, thanks for your good words.

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