Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Civility Week 17: April 23, 2012

Random acts of civility I’ve noticed:

Picking up litter- Even though I grew up with the Indian on the side of the road with the tear in his eye anti-litter campaign, I am still not a good “litter picker-upper”.  I pick up my own litter, but pick something up along the street or parking lot? Ewww….I am such a germ freak that I imagine all kinds of nasty things crawling over that soda cup. So I really admire people who pick up random bits orts of trash and dispose of them properly. My own mother goes around at church picking up Kleenexes and cereal off the floor.

So, my lesson in civility this week: stop being such a pantywaste about germs and pick up that Kleenex in the pew book holder and throw it away.  Then promptly wash my hands!

Moving forward in a traffic line at a stoplight to let someone behind you get past to the right turn lane. This one I do practice quite often. I hate it when you have one lane of traffic with another right turn lane that is empty but no one can use it because no body at the front of the line will move forward ten inches.  This is not just a polite behavior to learn, it’s civil because it would save lots of cussing and tempers at the stop lights!

Waving someone forward at a four way stop. Now, this is a really generous gesture especially if it was  your turn but you are letting someone else go or if you have no idea whose turn it should be and you let another car go. But there is a caveat:  you can’t wave someone through with an angry hurry up signal. That doesn’t count! 

Letting the person behind you with only two items go ahead of you at the grocery. This is a really nice one I see every once in a while and I try to be aware of it when I’m in line with my cart full.

People who plant gorgeous flowers and plants in their front yards.  I think people who plant anything in their front yards do it to make other people happy!  If I look outside at my house it’s usually toward my backyard, a habit I had from when my kids were little I guess!  But I love to have flowers and shrubs in my front yard not only to make my house look nice, but to give other people pleasure too. I love driving by houses and seeing flowers in bloom and colorful plants and those cute wooden or metal cutouts in their yards. It’s like you’re saying: “Hey! Welcome to the neighborhood!” or “Thanks for visiting my neighborhood!” 

Have you noticed some random acts of civility? Write me back so I can include them! I think we need a “Random Acts of Civility” program . We can begin on the local level and work our way up to the world!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Civility Week 16: April 16, 2012

   Sixteen weeks, 16 weeks, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to stick to a lifestyle change for so long. Except when I went from being a very carb based person to trying to eat more protein and vegetables! And that I still have trouble with after 15 years!
   But this civility thing is so easy to forget, especially with my emotional personality. Before I know it I usually mouth off about complaints, frustrations and get impatient with the rest of the world.  So when I actually have a moment when I use civility, it comes as a pleasant surprise. 
   One instance happened during Holy Week, which around here is an extremely stressful week with that Mass and this service and so on. I was on the phone with someone who was extremely agitated and upset and was yelling at me. Usually I would have gotten off the phone and complained to everyone how unfair it was this person was yelling at me for something I had no control over.
   But for once I found I just let it go by and assumed his holy week was going a little crazy too.   Now I can tell you of any number of people who are able to do that kind of thing all the time. But this was a very new way of dealing with this kind of situation for me!  And I did it. Once! 
   There have been a couple moments while driving it happened too.  I told myself to take a big breath and sit back and listen to the radio instead of getting upset and mad. Could it be after 16 weeks I am finally wearing down? Can civility be retrieved in my life?
   But have you ever noticed when you are trying really hard to become a better person, the devil finds out about it? I think he has conversations with his minions like the conversations in C.W. Lewis’  “Screwtape Letters”.    And it would go something like this:

Devil: “Number One, get upstairs and see about Lisa.”
Number One: “That woman in the church office? “
Devil: “Yep, that’s the one. She’s been up to something lately.”

Number One: “Up to what?”

Devil: “Well, you know we used to get her with her lack of patience and that wonderful sailor vocabulary? Well, she started with that ugly civility experiment in January.”

Number One:  “Civility? Again? I thought we had that beat? None of the politicians took it up, and it’s been totally lost in the United States.”  Wrings his hands smiling… “And you should see the streets!  Best thing humans ever invented was the car…they scream and yell and cuss at each other…”
Devil: “Be quiet! Anyway, she thinks she is beating our system on this civility thing. She’s actually working on it as a project and worse yet,” he leans in to whisper, “She’s been blogging about it.”
Number One slaps his hand to his head: “Oh no, not blogging.”

Devil, sighing: “Yes, blogging. Why did we let that get through? And I thought that Internet thing would serve our purposes. “
Number One: “But it does, with pornography, sexual predators, gossiping and people being hateful. It’s been wonderful!”

Devil: “Not with some of this blogging stuff.  Some humans are actually helping each other by blogging. That reminds me I need to get someone on that… anyway…get up there and disturb her peace again.”
Number One: “She’s always falls for that I-think-I’m-working-hard-but-no-body-ever-notices thing where she gets tired and resentful…”

Devil: “True, she’s an easy mark on that one.  Let’s hit her on the worrywart-mom front again, throw in some tornados and earthquakes, kids being far from home, you know the routine.  We can always find another avenue to break up her relationship with the Enemy.”
Number One: “Ok, Boss, I got her file.” He laughs, “I wouldn’t worry about her working on this civility thing, she’s got a list a mile long of other stuff we get her with.  In fact…”

Devil: “Spare me the details Number One I already know her file. Just get on it for God’s sake…Ack!!!! I can’t believe I said that!”   Loud thunder reverberates as he hits his head against nearby brimstone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Civility Week 15 April 9, 2012

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be
expected to take the oldsters' side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed  guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their elders don't, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously sometimes of their religion insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question "Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?" Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

   Good news from the cyberspace front according to Pew Research Center and the Family Online Safety Institute more teens use civility when using social media than adults do.
   Bad news :  According to the same study fewer adults use civility when using social media than most teens do.
   Wow, is this a case of  do as I say not as I do”?
   How do we act when online, either on social media such as Facebook or MySpace and in our emails to each other?  I’ve heard about some pretty nasty emails people have sent each other and have received my share of them too. (I have a long way to go on this myself, if you remember the whole reason I began this civility blog is to make myself work on this stuff more!!)
   According to Pew Research Center and the Family Online Safety Institute, sixty-nine percent of social media savvy teens think their peers treat one another with respect.  20 percent said peers are mostly unkind and 11 percent said it depends.  I’m not sure what they mean by “it depends.” I say that too because it means “it depends on the situation, whether it’s warranted or not.”  And for now I’m going to leave that “20% say peers are mostly unkind” because that percentage seems like a lot, but that’s another whole blog sometime.
   What they don’t report on is what adults using social media say about their peers. I would be interested in hearing how adults treat each other on social media. What I do know is sometimes adults I interact with on email don’t always use civility in their messages. But how do I define civility in email? Well, aside from refraining from using profanity, I also include things like using salutations, such as “Dear Lisa”, or “Hi, Lisa”  or even at least, “Lisa,” and of course instead of relying on my reply email stating who I am, I think I should sign my email, “Sincerely”,  Thank you,” etc.
   To me being civil on the  Internet means still using the same manners you would use in school, i.e. raising your hand to say something, using full sentences and not using things like, “yeah”, or “whatever” in an email in a business or education situation.  Of course I don’t mean when I talk to my kids on email or twitter I always use correct sentences! But you should at least be polite!
   According to an article by William McKenzie on the Dallas News Website, “Making sure that tweeting, Facebooking and blogging does not dumb down shared standards requires a renewal of an old-fashioned virtue:  restraint.”
   “Because”, he goes on to say, “In the olden days, which means before the ‘Net arrived, people actually wrote letters. They had time to find a stamp, lick an envelope, go to the post office – each of which gave the sender time to think whether he or she actually wanted to send the letter, particularly an angry missive.”
   Not so much today: You write, click to send and it’s gone like that. No going back, no rethinking…
And much like a written letter, much of what we write on the Internet is still alive out in cyberspace, possibly to millions of readers.
Whoa, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want everyone in the world to know I was upset at someone else . It’s bad enough the stuff people can find out on cyberspace about each of us now!
   So, rethinking our civility while using the Internet, no matter whether it’s tweeting or emailing or blogging even cannot go without rechecking ourselves. Just how harsh did that sound? Can someone take that in a way I didn’t mean it?
   I don’t mean we have to second guess everything we write, but what if we pressed a mental pause button, just as if we were handwriting a letter, addressing the envelope, finding a stamp and going to the mailbox all in an effort to vent a frustration, complain about something, or talk about someone else?  What if we give ourselves some “pause and reflect time”?  We may find we shouldn’t send that tweet, email or blogging thought.
   It’s something to think about and obviously people are even writing news about it.  We can all start a new trend ourselves by being old fashioned and pausing to reflect.  Not everything in the Internet world has to be “Now or never, life or death.” 
   So would you kindly excuse me now? I would greatly like to go back to reread this blog and pause for some reflection before I press the “publish” button!
Thank you so very kindly!

Lisa Simmons

Monday, April 2, 2012

Civility Week 14-April 2, 2012

   We enter week 14 of Civility with Holy Week! What a week to try to remain civil, at least in my office which is in our Cathedral parish where everything kicks into high gear as we print out programs, arrange for the Bishop’s visit, prepare for Holy Week services, fill ministry positions for each service and Mass. Wheee…I’m bushed and it’s only Monday!!
So being civil this week is not only a challenge, but a call to a higher mode of operation as you can’t possibly become selfish this week, not when Jesus goes all the way to the cross for me and you without complaint.
   Was Jesus ever uncivil? I don’t think so.  Even after being whipped and beaten, crowned with a ring of horrible thorns, denied food, water and rest, carried that heavy piece of wood all through town and up the hill to Golgotha, he did so without complaint, much less utter anything unkind.
   So if this is the week to really emulate Him…
   I will try to remember I am being called to at least TRY to be like our Lord…still remembering He fell three times on the way to the cross and knowing I will fall numerous times this week…but trying to share in the suffering servanthood that Christ did.
   I will pray for you this week, please pray for me too!
God bless you!