We all have goals set out for ourselves, whether we aim to be writers or performers, or to run a restaurant. We might even simply want to get on from day to day, buying our groceries, having our teeth cleaned.
Just about anything we hope to achieve involves other people. And, yes, you know pretty much what I’m going to say from the title of this piece. Getting along in the world, whether that means climbing the ladder of success or just meeting our many basic needs will inevitably bring us into contact with diverse human beings.
Good manners count, and exercising them can not only oil the wheels of our progress, they can lead to social exchanges, even momentary ones, that satisfy and lift our spirits—another primal must-have we don’t often consider.
If you don’t show courtesy to me, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be rude to you or step our of some role for which I’m being paid in order to tell you off. No. But it does mean that on some level, conscious or unconscious, I probably won’t go all out for you.
Why don’t people just say `thank you’ or show appreciation in some way? Or hold open a door or acknowledge a neighbor with a smile? Is their self-absorption so intense or their home training so impoverished? Well, indeed, that might be so, but even those conditions can be overcome.
We need, in short, to look at ourselves when we interact with others and see if we’ve been at least polite, if not downright friendly. Others are us. We aren’t separate from the people around us. All together, we form the body of humanity and a social sphere that feeds or deprives us. Let’s build something good, something that in serving those who seemingly are outside ourselves will serve us, too.
We can do better than reciprocate; in fact, we can give a little extra. They say your good works come back to you, but maybe only in feeling you’ve done the right thing. That might be enough.