A close up of leaves on the ground

Time For A Change




Autumn has always been my favorite season.  It is a time of change, of new beginnings.  As a child, it meant  the return to school, reunion with friends, relief from the oppressive summer heat. I loved the smells, the sounds, the feel of autumn.  The rustle of wind through the falling leaves, the smell of apples cooking, the taste of pumpkin pies, the calls of the geese migrating south, the chill in the air.  I loved it all.

But this is an autumn like no other.  We are in the grip of a deadly and relentless pandemic on the threshold of flu season.  Within seven short months (can that be true?) we have lost over 200,000 lives to coronavirus in the US and ar eapproaching 1 million worldwide.  Over that same period, we have weathered devastating hurricanes, floods, and riots.  Fires still rage over much of the West coast. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels and we are in a contentious political battle for the presidency.  This is  uncharted territory.A person sitting on the ground in front of water.A person sitting on the ground in front of water.

We’re all in this together; we hear this a lot. And we seem to agree on this.  But we don’t agree on how to get out the situation we find ourselves in.  The popular response seems to be to blame each other for our problems.  It  has become a national pastime. We need only to channel surf or go on social media to find a rabid champion for our cause.   No insult, no accusation is off limits.  We wear our stubborn allegiance  like a badge of honor. Vicious name-calling, unheard of a decade ago, is embedded in the national dialog. Common courtesy no longer unifies us; we are drifting into dangerous waters.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I railed about the corrupt and self-seeking motives of a certain political group, and threw in a few unflattering slurs for good measure. Surely she agreed with my position, after all, she is my friend, an intelligent and thoughtful person. But as her smile stiffened to a grimace,  it was clear she didn’t agree.  At. All. To my chagrin,  not only had my insensitive, and face it, tasteless,  comment threatened a friendship, it  had made meaningful discourse on the topic impossible.  Worse, I wasn’t presenting a reasoned argument, only popular opinions, not even my own.

I am not proud of this behavior.  I need to change.  Uncomfortable as it is,  I need to listen respectfully to the other point of view if I want peace in my family, with my friends, in my community.

But why listen to my opponent?  Why entertain her point of view, when she probably won’t listen to mine.  And even so, I’m just one person among millions.  Perhaps true, but more importantly, being that self-righteous, intolerant person just does not serve me well.  I don’t like how it feels.

And who knows, if a few people become open to listenIng and a few more listen to those people and a few more……

Wait!  Isn’t that how the virus spreads?




Two dogs are laying down and one is sticking out its tongue.

Mind Your Manners

When I left home for a visit,  my mother’s parting words were always “Mind your manners.”  Except for the  basics such as,  don’t chew with your mouth full or reach across the table to take the last biscuit, she wasn’t talking about table manners.  At our house, we  weren’t concerned with the A person sitting on the ground in front of water.etiquette of fine dining.  She was talking about behavior:  “Say please and thank you, don’t interrupt your elders when they’re talking, wait your turn, be polite,  pick up after yourself, say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir;” when addressing adults.  In other words, simple courtesies.

Some of my non-Southern-born-and-bred  friends tell me that “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir” makes them feel old.  OK, so maybe it’s just a Southern thing.  And, really,  it’s  not such a big deal with me.    But  it is not OK with me  when the teenager with green and purple spiked hair, decked out in A person sitting on the ground in front of water.four inch platform boots and a T-shirt with ” NOPE ” in block letters across her chest yells across the hair salon, “Louise! Ready for ya!” It’s not about her attire; that’s her space and I respect it; I only ask that she respect mine.  We call that being polite.

Although Southerners are nothing if not traditional, my mother’s insistence on good manners was not just about tradition.  In our rural farming community; short on funds, long on pride;  manners were much more than that.  Poor manners signaled “poor breeding.”  There was no shame in being poor, but to be poor and poorly brought up was unacceptable.

But that was then and this is now.  There has been a  dramatic shift in our societal norms.   Rudeness seems to carry little if any stigma. Adults interrupt their conversations to answer the whining toddler A person sitting on the ground in front of water.tugging at their sleeve, drivers honk their horns and  yell obscenities at the slightest provocation.     Lyrics of popular songs are laced with profanity.

 Sadly, we have allowed, even welcomed this, for whatever reasons;  entertainment, vicarious revenge,  the love of a good fight, or just plain apathy.   Between 70 and 80% of respondents in a recent survey (1) believed that lack of civility in our society has risen to crisis proportions.   And yet  in that same survey, over  90%  believed that they are “always or usually” respectful and polite to others and 75% said they are” willing to set a good example by practicing civility. ”  Hmmm.  Somehow the math doesn’t work. In the words of the immortal Pogo:  “ We have met the enemy and he is us.”A person sitting on the ground in front of water.


The fix is so simple as to be embarrassing.  Any first grader could tell you the answer; The Golden Rule,  plain and simple:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (2)”


How hard is that, really? And the best part?  Good manners cost nothing.

A person sitting on the ground in front of water.


(1)  Civility in America VII: The State of Civility,  2017 Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate

(2)  Matthew 7:12 NCV