Friday, September 30, 2016

Polite Company

I am more aware each day of the blessings of the traits my parents taught me as a child. One was the importance of doing work well. Another was the importance of politeness. Often those two qualities go hand-in-hand. The following entry is from June of 2006.

My apartment is surrounded by fast food places. Last night, I was too tired to put a chicken breast on the George Foreman Grill so I visited the closest burger joint. There were more people working behind the counter than the three customers but it took five minutes to fill my order. I didn't mind. There was no hurry and I can walk home in one minute. I like the food there and it has a menu with items for less than one dollar. Except for the shift leader, I would guess all the employees were teenagers. They messed up the orders of the other customers, both times putting the wrong items into the customers' bags. When called on the errors, they corrected them, salads in both instances. What captured my attention were the reactions, or lack thereof. First, I detected no apology in either case. The food switch was made without comment. Secondly, it didn't seem to bother the teenage workers that they had made mistakes with other people's money. It was no big deal to them, at least visibly. Let me say this; I applaud these young men for working at what is not the most fun job in the world. I appreciate that they are punching the clock, earning honest money, when they could do nothing. But times have changed.

I went through a number of jobs as a kid. Shoveling snow, mowing grass, detasseling corn, and delivering newspapers prepared me for my first job interacting with consumers. At sixteen, I began carrying out groceries for the Jack and Jill Supermarket in York, Nebraska. I worked there for four years, staying through my sophomore year of college, always part-time. They were great at scheduling around my school and baseball/basketball commitments. At first, I hated it. The manager made me nervous. I was sure I would mess up and he would yell at me, which never happened. One thing I learned as I took customers' food bags to their cars or rang up their bills at the cash register is that the public responds positively when you are polite: "Thank you! Yes, sir! Yes, Ma'am!" A dollar value can't be placed on courtesy in the market place. In some stores in Houston, the cashiers don't thank me for spending my money. Maybe stores are so desperate for workers that they don't demand any level of graciousness. Perhaps businesses do not think it matters. It could be that the clientele simply doesn't care. As a society, we are much less polite than we used to be. Tommy Owen, a well-known high school football coach in Nashville, addressed the phenomenon of making a big deal anytime a teen says Yes, sir and No, sir: "When what used to be average is considered exceptional, we are in trouble." Don't get me wrong- it isn't my belief that it's a requirement of graciousness to vocalize sir and ma'am. However, I think it is a symptom of our culture which tends to be edgier with each passing year.

Christianity is a contagious religion; it spreads by contact. There is no specific commandment to be polite but I think it is implied throughout the Word of God. In Titus 2, Paul includes instructions for Christian slaves, regarding their behavior towards their masters, including a command "not to talk back to them.'' The purpose of Paul's admonition to the enslaved brothers was so "they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." If the Lord expects those in bondage to be thoughtful, will he be happy with anything less from me? We are judged by the world in the way we conduct ourselves and it is my contention that the non-believer will be more open to God's message when we are gracious to all those we come in contact with. Little things impress us and carry weight when we evaluate the life of another. We are losing Ariana at Westbury Christian School. Her father's job is transferring him to Canada so in August, the family will move north of the border. I have a lasting memory of Ariana, who has graced my freshman and sophomore Bible classes the past two years. At the end of every class, as she headed to the exit, she would turn and say, "Thank you, Coach Hawley!" A number of my students express gratitude at the end of the year or on special occasions but no one has ever articulated it on a daily basis. I will remember her kindness just as others will remember my words and gestures, whether they are respectful and considerate or ill-mannered and rude. Someone will always be listening.

Coach Hawley's Student Politeness Hall Of Fame:
MALE: Byron Lee/ Friendship Christian School
FEMALE: Whitney Davis/ Westbury Christian School

Applicable quote of the day:
"Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax."
Arthur Schopenhauer

God bless,
Luke 18:1

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1 comment:

Jon said...

Was the food good.. hahahaha