Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Be Bold in Your Courtesy

Please offer a seat. I will never forget how back in the early nineties I was on a crowded train going to Washington, DC. from Princeton, N.J. There was a young lady who was expecting a baby standing in the aisle with her bag on hand. All the seats were taken and none of the many men around her would offer her a seat. I was appalled and angry and wanted to give up my seat to her. I was, however, hemmed in by a crowd of women speaking in rapid Spanish and was unable to move. There was no way the poor pregnant girl could have climbed over so many people to make the seat exchange.

I was relieved when the conductor entered. He was African-American and a prince of a man who surveyed the situation with displeasure. Then he announced: "This lady is with child. Would one of you gentlemen please give her your seat?" The man nearest to the lady surrendered his place to her; how appalling that he had to be asked to do so. When the train got to Washington, I saw the young mother greeted by a young man with a little boy; the little boy leaped into the air at the sight of her and ran across the platform to meet her. How we forget that strangers we meet are often members of a family who love them. It occurred to me that when we are rude to someone we are dehumanizing them, and taking away from them the love and respect that they deserve as children of God. But when we are polite, then we are treating them according to their God-given dignity. Offering a seat to another is a small gesture that expresses a great deal about our view of the cosmos, our place in it, and the place of others. Being the center of the universe in one's mind is not a character trait to be admired, nor is it a sign of psychological or spiritual health. Share


Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

Thanks for this story. God bless the "prince of a man" from your story. Not to toot my own horn, but I always give my seat not only to pregnant ladies, but to any lady.

Here in Korea, where I have lived since 1997, it is expected for the young to give their seats to their elders, but many youths feign sleep to avoid this. It is very disappointing, and it shames them to see a foreigner abide more by their cultural norms than they do.

In Chile, high school students pay half price on public transportation, but must stand for anyone older, and they do so, or at least did so back in the early 90s when I was there. A very Catholic country.

Julygirl said...

It also depends on what part of the country in which one lives. I am in an area where everyone knows everyone so people tend to be more thoughtful because they have more of an attitude of community.

Anonymous said...

So right, EMV. I think it's the anonymity in a big metro area that cultivates in many, a selfishness, insensitiveness, and even down right rudeness. (Much like what goes on, on the Internet!) Which reflects the religious bankruptcy of our times. When people realize God is watching and with us at all times, the anonymity disappears, and we become culpable for all our actions, words and thoughts.

Alice Seidel said...

Yes, I remember being pregnant in the seventies, and getting on the bus from downtown NYC and not one man would ever give up his seat! They all pretended to be asleep, and of course there were no cellphones or blackberries to play with. Courtesy is such a simple thing, and speaks volumes about who we are.