From the Rev, Feb. 18, 2015

Dear Friends,

I was talking with a friend last week who has been out of work for almost a year. He has sent out dozens of resumes and had a number of interviews but nothing has come through for him. As you might imagine, he is extremely frustrated. Others I have talked to who are in this situation tell me that it’s not just the loss of income but the loss of identity. Self-esteem often takes a hit.

But perhaps the worst part of their situation is the wholesale absence of courtesy or kindness they experience in their efforts to find a job. They send out endless resumes, check out every possible website and make hundreds of phone calls. They go to an interview full of hope and expectation. ..and they wait…and wait. They follow up with a carefully thought out “thank you” email or a gracious phone call and more often than not they hear back little or nothing. Days, weeks, sometimes months pass. When the interview ended they were promised “We’ll get back to you” but that promise is often forgotten. It seems like their interview has fallen into a black hole of corporate mystery.

Talk to anyone who is out of work and they’ll likely tell you this: basic human courtesy is pretty rare when you’re searching for a job. Unfortunately, it’s too often true in the rest of daily life as well.

It feels at times like our world is awfully rude these days. Politicians rip apart their political enemies in public, civility be damned. A youth on a bus in Chicago beats the living daylights out of a man who just asked him to put out his cigarette. It’s the small things too. Standing in line at a Starbucks while someone around you yaps away on their cell phone, oblivious to the fact of the public space they share with others around them. Or walking around a WalMart, lost among all that stuff and hoping and praying that just one employee might actually come up to you and ask “May I help you?”

Fortunately, courtesy does happen sometimes and when it does it feels wonderful, doesn’t it? A driver lets us pull into the next lane in heavy traffic. A famous football player takes the time to say hello to a little kid who has waited hours for an autograph. We receive a handwritten “thank you” note from someone. A stranger holds the elevator door for us as we hurry to make an appointment. Basic human courtesy…it’s so very simple.

Why is courtesy so rare? Many of us use busyness as an excuse. ..too busy to return a phone call…too busy to slow down for a stranger in need…too busy at work to follow up on something promised. Some will even say that courtesy is a sign of weakness in this increasingly hard world and only those who are tough will get ahead and win the game.

I guess it all comes down to just one choice: are we going to see the world as “I” centered or as “we” centered; is it all about “me” or all about “us? Friends, we share this world with a bunch of other people. If we are going to get along together simple acts of human kindness are all we need. It’s what your mother called “Manners” Courtesy is like a cool drink on a hot day. It refreshes. Or like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day like today. It warms us. It makes us smile. It reminds us we need to be kind too.

So why don’t you make someone’s day today by being polite. Smile and say, “Thank you.” Go out of your way to be helpful. Slow down and recognize a stranger as a fellow human being…someone who is just as worthy of respect and care as you are. God made us not merely for ourselves alone but for each other. Being courteous affirms this basic spiritual truth.

The poet Henry Burton said it this way:

Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on;
‘Twas not given for thee alone, Pass it on;
Let it travel down the years, Let it wipe another’s tears,
‘Til in Heaven the deed appears -Pass it on

Be courteous….be polite….mind your manners…make your Mother proud!

You are loved,