How About a Little Appreciation (With a Side of Courtesy)?

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a science teacher who said something in class that I will never forget. It had nothing to do with science, but everything to do with appreciation. He was talking to us about the responsibility we had as students to do our homework and to give it our best effort. He said that we shouldn’t expect praise for “doing our job” as students; it was our responsibility and doing it well should be its own reward.

Well, that actually made sense until he said this: “For example, I don’t give my wife a medal each time she makes my dinner; that’s her JOB.” Even then I thought, ‘man, what planet are you living on??’ Now all I remember about him was that one statement and nothing else.

In our house, there was only the three of us (well, four, if you count the cat). Each night my mother would set the table with our nicest china, and put thin ivory candles in the pretty brass candlesticks that had belonged to her mother. When we all sat down for dinner, it was always something delicious, and, although we all talked about our days, we always told her how *wonderful everything was.

She was the editor-in-chief of our local newspaper, locally known as The Grunter, and although she worked mothers’ hours, she always made time to visit with me when I got home from school. Dad worked fulltime and we all understood that money was tight and the words “we can’t afford that” were understood and accepted. I know that they did without things for themselves many times, too. But I never felt deprived or poor–it seemed to me that I had everything I needed and wanted.

But the main thing I remember about my growing up was the mutual respect, appreciation and courtesy between my parents. I never heard a harsh word, a swear word, an unkind word, an angry word, or a hurtful word. There was no shouting, no throwing things, no rude or dismissive words or abusive behavior. The least little thing that either Mom or Dad did for each other was greeted with a “thank you, love!” They thanked me for the little things I did, too, which made me feel not only appreciated but necessary to our family.

I never saw Mom and Dad less than courteous to each other, and they were the only parents I knew who hugged and kissed all time. Moreover, they hugged and kissed me a lot, too.

Funny thing, when the Crankee Yankee and I talk about our growing up years, he says the same things about his parents. They were very much in love, and they adored him and his younger brother. They did so many things together, just like we did in my family; camping, cookouts, barbeques, going to fairs, watching fireworks, having picnics and so on. As kids, we didn’t realize that all these things were inexpensive fun that our parents could afford–we just thought it was plain old fun.

This is what I miss seeing in many families today–so many of them just don’t seem to even like each other all that much. There doesn’t seem to be much appreciation or even common courtesy, either. When I lived in San Antonio, TX for a few years, I was at the River Walk, enjoying all the sights. A little boy and his dad were walking near me, and the little boy jumped on a piece of fence and broke it. His father looked down at him with contempt and anger in his face, saying, ‘why you gotta break s*** all the time?’ I still remember the look on that boy’s face; hurt and wondering why his father had spoken to him in that tone of voice. It is the hurtful things we remember.

So, what about the appreciation and courtesy and just plain love we should be showing our families? What happened to that? It is said that it takes a whole lot of ‘atta boys’ to dissolve one ‘you stupid kid!’ Why can’t we make appreciation and courtesy to our family and friends a habit? Heck, why can’t we all just say ‘thank you’ from time to time when someone has done something nice for us? It doesn’t take much effort, but it does so much good.

I think of it this way: when I thank the person who kindly held the door open for me, I hope that they know that I truly do appreciate that small gesture. But if I do the same to someone else and they ignore me, I can’t let that bother me. Oh sure, in my head I’m saying, ‘and….YOU’RE WELCOME!’ But that’s just how I blow off steam–I can’t afford to let something that small ruin my perfectly nice day. I wish I could say that I don’t ever let things like that bother me, but, being human, of course they do sometimes.

I’m just trying to be better and give back as much as I can. I’ve been given a great deal in my life, and I plan to spend the rest of it paying it back and paying it forward. I’m no saint–I’m just trying to make up for being a jerk so many times!

*Lest you think that I was a perfect child and always ate everything without complaint–you would be wrong. I hated finnan haddie (smoked haddock in a cream sauce), so whenever we had it, I knew to get up and make myself a peanut butter sandwich. As Mom always said, “This ain’t no bar and grille. If you don’t like what’s for dinner, you know where the peanut butter is.” I did.

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