Day 81 Courtesy in the Jungle

A year ago I went to New York City with my niece where we stayed at the top of a shabby but venerable hotel.  Each day we left our rooms and entered the elevator as its sole occupants.  As the transport descended to the urban floor it would become populated with more and more people.  Every New York City day I would greet those entering the elevator.   I would smile and offer a “good morning!”  I suppose my innocent looking companion and my neat demeanor squashed their suspicions, but my niece was horrified.  She would stare straight ahead and later question why it was necessary to address total strangers who would never be seen or heard from again!  I’m not sure if I have the answer to her question, I only know that it brings me pleasure to offer courtesy when I enter public spaces.

My parents grew up in a Southern region of the United States, and when visiting that part of the country, I always notice the gracious way people interact.  It appears to be such a civilized way of living, to respectfully acknowledge the presence of another person.  These small acts of courtesy smooth away the rough edges of everyday life.  When wrestling with parcels are you not grateful when a stranger opens a door for you to pass through?  Once when waiting at a luggage carousel in a small Southern airport, a stranger lifted my heavy bag off the conveyer and handed it over the mountains of holiday suitcases . . . with a smile . . .  and actually spoke the words, “Merry Christmas!”  Moments like that are a breath of fresh air in the madding world of holiday travel.

The unvarnished fact is that our world is becoming harsher and full of stress.  I am frequently mortified by the expressions of indifference and entitlement I witness in the marketplace.  To offer kindness or courtesy in mundane settings is an expression of nobility.  I cannot promise you that your efforts will be rewarded or even acknowledged but there is a refreshing lift that comes from transcending one’s personal preoccupations and extending good will to a stranger.  Sometimes what you get in return is an on-rushing of pure gratitude.  And perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . your gestures, your efforts, commingle with mine, to make our world a little bit more peaceful, more hopeful, more holy.

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope—
   Good morning.
                         –Maya Angelou
                           On the Pulse of the Morning
This entry was posted in God, Peace, Spirituality, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Day 81 Courtesy in the Jungle

  1. David Zentner says:

    If we are all brothers and sisters then there are no strangers, only family we haven’t met.

  2. Susan S. says:

    Thank you, Fr. Matt, for ALWAYS being kind, courteous, joyful and grateful. It is a rare characteristic in anyone, and particularly beautiful in a priest. I know now how rare and beautiful. With Gratitude and Love…

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