When I was in first grade, I attended a private strict Christian school near Dallas, Texas. It was exactly as you would imagine a private school to be with the uniforms, strict rules, and small class sizes. With a tuition that rivaled that of a university of college, we received more than the average education. We had a Bible class in addition to our curriculum, Chapel every Thursday, and lessons in etiquette. I think more important than almost anything else is that we were taught manners. Something I thought was normal seems to be so rare the more I experience the world. I remember our first grade class performing a play on manners. I would excited because I got the hardest, longest script. I was the M of manners. I am still so appreciative of the manners I learned, and am quite observant of displays of manners in public.
Since moving from that small suburban area in the South, I have wearily stopped expecting it from people. Every now and then I am delightedly surprised. Today, it took the most unusual form. If I told you a gentleman took his hat off while greeting me, how would you describe him? I would guess maybe someone very well-to-do? Maybe even with a top hat and suit? Would he have been looking sharp, clean, and well-groomed? I would imagine so.
However, the gentleman that took his hat off as greeting me in quick passing on a crosswalk in downtown Sacramento was none of those things. He was an older black male with a newly forming beard and mustache. He seemed worn by the streets to which very well might have been his home. He wore a white cotton t-shirt, rugged jeans, and a backpack that might have carried his own belongings. This gentleman took his hat off as he said hello while we crossed paths very a brief moment, then placed it back on his head and continued on his way. It was not a call for attention, it was not a clever form of a cat call. It seemed to be deep rooted manners that he had been taught maybe before I was born. I desperately pondered where he might have come from, who taught him that, how old he was, and how he came to be in his current condition.
This bum on the street had more manners than most people I know. This bum on the street of the capitol of California had more manners than the politicians running it. When did we stop instilling good manners into our children and each other? When did we lower our expectations for society? Am I alone on this? Am I the last of a dying breed soon to be a fad of history?