On (Un)Common Courtesy – A Mothers Day BriRant

BriBlog, BriRants

Recently, Time magazine ran an article about Donald Trump’s life inside the White House, including a side note about The Donald’s receiving two scoops of ice cream with his pie after dinner while everyone else received only one. CNN picked up on the article, and ran a story on air about Trump’s dinner table rudeness. The conservative press then began to ridicule CNN and other liberal media about their ludicrous choice of this frivolous anti-Trump story upon which to report rather than reporting on outrages like people being killed by the thousands daily for their religious beliefs, our institutions of higher learning actively suppressing freedom of expression, young girls being sold by their own parents for use as baby factories by Islamic terrorists, licensed doctors performing genital mutilation on young girls at the request of their parents right here in the USA, and who knows what other manner of evil running rampant all around us.

But in all fairness, the fact that The Donald asks for and receives better accommodation than his guests does reflect upon the nature of the man. No matter how you may feel about Trump’s presidency and his politics, one thing most of us can likely agree on is that the man’s a boor. It’s not just the ice cream, of course. He’s downright rude in most of his public interactions with people. He doesn’t appear to know any better. And that brings me to the subject of this BriRant.

Some of you have heard me wax eloquent (or at least at length) upon one of the finest gifts my mother bestowed upon me – the proper use of our beautiful language. Certainly (as with some of the other things she did her best to teach me) I have chosen to ignore her grammar lessons on occasion, but it isn’t because she didn’t teach me to talk good. Similarly, my mother taught my siblings and me how to properly treat guests in our homes – mostly by example in her own home. She taught us that guests were always to receive the very best of everything available, never second best if better was in any way attainable, and certainly never anything less than the host. In this way, the host implicitly makes the guest feel equality with the host, and reassurance that the host regards the guest likewise.

Conversely, if the host receives better treatment in some way (even unintentionally), the guest is made to feel that the host regards her/him as somehow inferior. I know that is how I felt, when one of my supervisors invited the crew over for a barbecue, and treated the guests to perfectly nice hamburgers while he sat down to a sirloin steak himself. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of steak, and would have preferred the hamburger in any case, but the implied inferiority left a bad taste in my mouth – especially since, in my heart of hearts, I knew myself to be far superior to the man intellectually, and in most other ways. “How?,” you might ask. Well, because my mother told me so, of course.

But I digress…

Of course, the treatment of guests in the home is only one aspect of the larger lesson – respect and honor for people in general, regardless of their station in life, or their relationship to oneself in society. It is proper conduct to hold the shop door open for the elderly woman who is unsteady on her feet, just as it is to do so for the fit young man in a rush while talking on his mobile phone. In short, one should always place others before oneself, hoping that they may do the same for you. This is the fundamental lesson my mother taught us, which The Donald apparently missed in his own upbringing. Furthermore, the lesson doesn’t just apply in personal interaction, but is vitally important in business. When one offers a service or builds a product, one must always strive for the highest quality possible. This is the focus on quality that enabled Toyota, for example, to give their cars the reputation they enjoyed for quality and reliability in place of the reputation for flimsiness and cheapness (in the least flattering sense of the word) once implied by the phrase – “Made in Japan.” Later on, when Toyota’s focus shifted to growth over product quality, the short-term costs to the business were astronomical, and the loss of customer trust will prove even more costly in the long run. To be successful, a business must ask itself a fundamental question, “Is our product one that we would wish to buy ourselves?” Jesus stated the principle succinctly nearly 2,000 years ago – “…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…”

The most important aspect of the lesson my mother tried to teach us, though, isn’t one of practice, but of attitude. When one holds the shop door open for that young man in a rush, one should do so out of a genuine desire to serve, not from a sense of duty. When one builds a high-quality product, it should be out of desire to provide something useful to our fellow creatures, not in the hope of improving the profits of our business. This is a matter of the heart, not of one’s actions. If one’s attitude is one of love for people, honestly hoping and striving for their good over your own out of true concern for them, the proper actions will naturally follow. Once again, Jesus talked about this, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” My dear mother has just such a genuine heart of care and compassion for others. When my mother asks how you’re doing in some endeavor or another, it is because she really wants to know. She has a natural (one might say “unnatural” or at least uncommon), ability in conversation to make someone feel that they are the very center of her concern, care, and focus regardless of what might be going on in her own life.

Sadly, I must confess I just haven’t quite come up to the standard set by my mother (and Jesus) in this regard. Oh certainly, I know and (usually) practice the rules of common courtesy I was taught. I say please and thank you. I call folks “sir” and “ma’am.” I hold the door for old ladies and young men alike. I am (usually) kind to strangers. I (sometimes) defer to others in traffic. But do I do so out of a sense of duty, or out of true love and concern for other people as Jesus and my mother taught?

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