Check the Expiry Date

My daughter and I were on the bus the other day when an older woman got on and slowly made her way toward the back, obviously looking for a place to sit. As she passed fit-looking riders in seats, no one jumped up. So when she got to us, halfway back, I offered her our spot. She had already spied another empty seat but she gave me a big smile. “Thank you very much for offering,” she said. “No one is ever kind anymore.”

I protested. People want to help, they’re just clued out. I made the same argument at a recent girls’ night out, when one of my friends complained that common courtesy has taken a nose dive because nobody cares. I just had to open my mouth. “I don’t think that’s true,” I said. I expounded my theory: People are fundamentally kind. But when we’re rushing from A to B, modern-day crap gets in the way. I think the combined stresses of hectic lifestyles, job demands, sleep deprivation, text messaging, recessions, crowds, mortgages, gas prices, federal elections and Jacob-versus-Edward controversies all work to distract people from the neediness that’s right in front of our faces.

I know I walk around in a fog sometimes. I know, too, that I used to be worse. The practice of doing a good deed a day taught me to pay a bit more attention to what’s around me. But still I’m certain I’ve missed many opportunities to do good turns, simply because I’ve been preoccupied.

What do you think? Are we as a society really getting more selfish? Or do we just have too much on our minds? Is politeness passé? Is benevolence behind the times? Is altruism obsolete?

Say it isn’t so.

5 responses to “Check the Expiry Date

  1. We have decided to be the way we have become. Smartphones and being “busy” all the time have replaced conversation, courtesy and civility. Sadly, most people don’t realize that being “busy” and the cost to our fellow man does not equate to productivity. So we lose on two fronts – the lost opportunity to meet someone new and are we really any further ahead by answering that last email while on the bus going home?

  2. You’re right. We need to re-arrange our priorities in the modern society.Basically, no one is bad but perhaps, our expectations are higher.

  3. It isn’t so. Most people are still very kind and willing to help. I have people regularly offering to help me when I’m out whether I need it or not. As an older woman with a very visible disability (I use an electric scooter) I’m usually pretty independent but when help is needed all I have to do is ask and it’s usually right there. A smile and a huge thank you is all I can do in return but it seems to be enough for everyone.

  4. Thanks to those who have weighed in so far. Great comments.

  5. It depends on the day I think. Your first illustration is one of my most-hated examples of young (or old) people not being “clued in” enough or respectful enough to offer a less-abled person their seat. It’s just common courtesy. On the other hand, sometimes good deeds and thoughtful words will pop up out of nowhere just as one least expects them (kind of like a job offer or a new boyfriend!). Thanks for making us think, Lisa.

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