I was a Girl Scout. I am a Girl Scout? I’m never sure on that one. I used to be a Girl Scout but... is one always a Girl Scout in the same way that one is always a Marine? I still use many of the skills I learned in scouting in my current occupation, much more than I do any of the skills I picked up in college and I still consider myself a college graduate.
One of the things that I still remember because I was/am a Girl Scout is how to handle a knife.
Did you know there was a proper way to handle a knife? There is, and much of it involves what you’d expect: how to close a folding knife, how to be safe while using the knife, the direction of the cut you should make. What you wouldn’t expect is that part of the handling of a knife involves saying “Thank You” when you have firm possession of a knife that is being handed to you.
Know why? To keep you safe. When you say “Thank you.” The person handing off the knife knows for sure that you are alert and secure in your grip. Who knew? (Besides the Girl Scouts, I guess.)
Sometimes it seems that manners are as old fashioned as my Girl Scout sash and we might think that they are equally as useful.
Please don’t be fooled. Manners are vital to our 2014 lives. I’m not talking about which fork to use at a fancy restaurant (though that knowledge will surely come in handy some day) or even the proper way to address a greeting card to a widow or a single lady (also good to know). I’m talking about the basic, ground level manners.
I’m campaigning for the simple manners that say, “Yes ma’am” instead of “Yep” ; for “What did you say?” instead of “huh?” ; for “Mom, I need your help in the next room, can you come here please?” instead of “HEY MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! HEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYY” (I might be setting the bar a bit high on that last one).
Why is it important? Because manners are about making others more important than self. Manners are about acknowledging another person or persons and helping them to feel valued and comfortable. Manners are more than acting polite in proper situations . Having manners is about being polite, because it is who you are in real life. I’m big on manners, not because I want my kids to seem better than everyone else. I’m big on manners because I think that my kids need to be the best kids that I can teach them to be so that they can travel through life as smoothly as possible. I mean to nourish my kids with manners so that they can in turn nourish others.
Manners grease the wheels of relationship. The person who answers his boss while looking him straight in the eye and says, “No sir.” will surely travel further in his job than the person who is looking down at her phone and answers “Uh-uh.” The teenager who knows not to speak with food in her mouth in a dinner interview for an internship will likely go further than the one who talked with a jaw full of salad. The person with a firm handle on manners will be taken much more seriously than the one who thinks that manners don’t matter anymore.
I heard recently that one should never have two sets of manners, one for public life and one for home life but that manners were equally important in both realms. I disagree a little. If you have to choose (which you don’t) I’d say manners at home will make your life so much more pleasant and so much more ingrained in your person, that using manners in public will soon become second nature.
We have lots of work to do in the manners arena around these parts adults and children alike, so we practice sometimes, imagining situations and conversations and working on best responses. Sometimes, we have a scrimmage in the manners game when we have company over for dinner. There is no better way to see where improvement is needed than to invite others into your home!
Manners are extra effort but I feel deeply that to teach them to our children is to give them an inheritance that will serve far better than a large bank account. Start with the basics: look the person who is speaking to you in the eye, answer completely "Yes" or "No", speak clearly, put cell phones away when others are talking. Highlight one action each week or every two weeks until everyone is succeeding, then add another. Keep it up until you would feel comfortable approaching the Queen of England...oh, no please don't do that. That certainly wouldn't put many folks at ease in your company and really, the comfort and value of others in your presence is the goal.
Be gracious with slips of manners. We are ALL works in progress!
Manners: What Others Are Saying...
I think the thing I miss most in our age is our manners. It sounds so old-fashioned in a way. But even bad people had good manners in the old days, and manners hold a community together, and manners hold a family together; in a way, they hold the world together.
Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. ~Emily Post
Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. ~Clarence Thomas
The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any. ~Fred Astaire
The test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones. ~Solomon Ibn Gabirol
Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them. ~Amy Vanderbilt
You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners. ~Lillian Gish
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ~Philippians 3:2