Did you know that May is International Civility Awareness Month? The goal is to spread awareness of the meaning of civility and help people to embrace the civility code of conduct: Respect, Restraint and Responsibility.
Saturday night, I attended the District 2 Toastmasters contest. There were seven excellent speakers competing to win and advance to the semi-finals. The winner shared a poignant story about an experience he had at his local grocery store that exemplifies incivility at its worst.
After doing his shopping, Omar was standing in line when he heard the woman in front of him angrily say to the clerk, “why do you have a retard working here? He takes forever to bag my groceries!” Omar was so angry at the rudeness and disrespect this woman exhibited that after speaking his mind he was escorted out of the store. Now, I’m not condoning his unrestrained outburst, but I do applaud him for speaking up.
It turns out the “retarded” man, Carl, was once the store manager until he suffered brain damage after a car accident. As Omar said, “the manager became managed.” But despite his injury, Carl taught Omar what really matters in life – that despite hardship you don’t give up, you embrace life fully and you greet each day with a smile and a love for your fellow human. Omar was grateful to Carl for the lessons.
The impatient woman who yelled at the clerk never took the time to understand Carl’s story, nor to appreciate that the store was giving someone a chance to earn an income. She violated two of the civility codes – respect and restraint.
Our society has gotten more and more uncivil. Part of that is due to there being fewer or no ramifications for bad behavior. Teachers can’t discipline kids, parents are busy making ends meet, celebrities and VIPs are acting badly and no one is calling them on it. Also, with so much socializing happening behind a computer screen we are more easily able to criticize and lash out at others because we can’t witness their pain nor experience the consequences of our bad, anonymous behavior.
Our busy, fast paced, anonymous world makes it much harder to show respect, restraint and to take responsibility. But the rewards are great when we do. Just ask Omar.
Civility costs nothing and buys everything.
Lady Mary Wortley Montague
Join with me in bringing awareness to the importance of civility this month. There is a wonderful new organization called Civilination. Its mission is to foster an online culture where individuals can fully engage and contribute without fear or threat of abuse. I encourage you to learn more.
What do you think should be done to combat this epidemic of incivility? I’d love your thoughts.