Thursday, November 19, 2015

The One Word Judgment

There are numerous ways to show politeness. This is one of them, from December 21, 2011.
Yesterday, I was doing some Christmas shopping for an unnamed relative so I went into a nearby Starbucks. All I wanted was a simple gift card but found they now have multiple options, including sets of five cards. With a little help from the nice young lady at the counter, I found what I needed. In the course of our conversation, I used the phrase, "Yes, ma'am." She immediately thanked me for addressing her with that term. I explained that I live in Texas and it was commonplace. Her response was along the line that she wished it was commonplace in Wichita as well. We finished the transaction and as I left, she thanked me again. For me, it was a wonderful present that was delivered without a bow.

When I grew up in Nebraska, very few people that I recall habitually referred to others with the monikers of sir and ma'am. My mom, who was from Arkansas, liked and even encouraged it but I can't say we were required to use it. I once had an elementary teacher from the south who did not understand why none of the kids in her class practiced the sir and ma'am habit. I think her take was that we were impolite, at least in that arena. I don't think so- it just was not part of the Midwestern culture. But as I lived more and more in the south and echoing back to Mom, I became more and more a practitioner of the southern vernacular. I like it when my students in Texas address me with yes, sir and no, sir but I understand not all of their parents are raising them with that habit. I do tell them that I am impressed with polite people and usually that is demonstrated by the way we speak.

You might think this is some sort of short treatise on manners but that isn't really what I'm trying to say. What hit me as I thought about the Starbucks encounter was that I didn't even realize I called the  young woman ma'am. It simply is so commonplace for me that I have no idea it comes from my mouth. That's a wake up call to me. Others, even strangers, notice so much about us that we often aren't aware we are projecting. Our speech, our mannerisms, our way of dressing are not in a vacuum. In this case, the other person liked what little she saw in me on the surface in a one minute interaction. In Titus 2, verse 10, Paul teaches Titus to instruct the Christians who were slaves to live   up to certain standards around their masters so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. That's pretty good advice for me, as well. I don't know if the Starbucks barista- 
first time I've ever used that term- made any judgments about my spirituality based on our brief time together. I do believe she has the perception, rightly or wrongly, that I'm a polite guy based simply on the use of one word. Another's perception of me might just as easily go the other way. Sir and ma'am? Just a matter of preference. But my responsibility as a believer cuts to the core of how  I conduct myself in this world.  
(PS: Who was the last person called Sir in the scriptures? That would be Jesus as addressed by Mary Magdalene by the tomb on the third day, Gospel of John.)

Applicable quote of the day:
“The English are polite by telling lies. The Americans are polite by telling the truth."

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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