Of courtesy

Strolling past Poseidon on the boardwalk, Virginia Beach, September 2013.

Strolling past Poseidon on the boardwalk, Virginia Beach, September 2013.

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

 – Hilaire Beloc

On a beautiful September day not long ago, Jeff and I enjoyed a few hours on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach.  As we strolled along I noticed an elderly man ahead of us, taking in the sunshine and cooling breeze with the help of his attendant, who walked beside him with patience and kindness.  It made me happy to see this gentleman able to be out and about on such a beautiful day.

Bikes whizzed past and children played, but all were mindful of each other, sharing the space with the sort of collective joy made manifest in such agreeable surroundings.  It was not unlike the neighborly accord I experience on my daily walks.

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that great and courageous deeds are needed to make the world a better place, and of course they are.  But they are perhaps less pervasive — and maybe even less needed — than simple, common courtesy.  How often has your day been made more happy (or less) by the cordial (or rude) behavior of a stranger?  Don’t you love it when people you’ve never seen smile and greet you?  Courtesy may not be the flashiest or most obvious way to demonstrate our understanding of grace, but it carries the potential to change the world, one person at a time.

I wish you a day filled with courtesy, flowing in grace, to you and from you!


  1. When I’m out walking with the dogs I always smile and say ‘hello’ to the people we meet. Often they reciprocate and we sometimes stop and have a chat, or walk together for a way. But some people totally ignore me and even scowl. It can make me annoyed that they so rude, but sometimes I just pity them. They must be very sad or angry people not to at least acknowledge my greeting.

    • I feel the same way when people ignore my greetings, and I used to feel embarrassed, as if I was the one who had done something wrong. But I got over that and as you say, I tell myself they are to be pitied rather than resented. How ugly the world must look to those who see others as a nuisance or an irritation. One thing I love about walking with dogs is that they open doors to so many pleasant exchanges. I can walk past a person with just a nod and a smile, but it’s very hard for me to walk past a dog without wanting to greet it with a scratch on the head! I’ve found most people with dogs are very understanding of that, as I used to be with Pasha, especially when children would want to stop and play with him.

  2. On a whole, I really do think we do a good job of day to day courtesies, being always mindful of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or holding doors. It’s so effortless really. I’d like to see it translate to everyone when they get behind the wheel 😀 With all the road construction we endure in the summer, I’m always letting people in my lane, hoping they’ll pass on the deed when needed. When I’m trying to get in another lane, I always give a big smile and a wave to say, “thank-you!!” because I know I appreciate it when I get a thank-you. Maybe it simply comes down to, ‘always treat people the way you wish to be treated’. BTW, that’s a beautiful place to walk together. xK

    • Yes, I never tire of the Boardwalk in Virginia Beach, and it’s lovely year round. I so agree that there is a huge problem with lack of courteous driving. I too always wave to anyone who lets me merge – hold my hand in front of the rear view mirror where they can’t fail to see it if they are looking. I NEVER cut in front of anyone (at least not intentionally) because it scares me, and also it just seems so rude. I’ve often told Jeff, when we are tempted to try to get ahead of other cars, it helps to imagine a bunch of people in the lobby of a building, all running and pushing ahead of one another to get on first. We never really see that, do we? Although we see it sometimes on subway platforms. But still, it seems worst of all in cars, where people seem to feel this anonymity that causes them to behave in ways they would never behave in front of anyone they knew. Driving seems to bring out the worst in people.

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I really think being courteous is reflective of one’s character. You can really get such different responses from friendliness. I make an effort to treat everyone the same. Years ago, I sang a jingle to our young grandchildren that went something like, ” Please and thank you are the magic words! ” I so hope that you’ve had a good weekend! 🙂

    • Sheila, I learned that little ditty when I was a child, but it’s been YEARS since I heard anyone singing it to kids. I’m glad you are continuing the tradition. Another thing I’ve started myself in recent years is re-adopting the southern custom of saying “sir” and “ma’am” when talking with people. One of Matt’s pediatric cardiologists, a Mississippi native who got her training at UCLA through the Air Force, always used those words whenever speaking with anyone, despite her own high rank and professional standing. I admired her so for that, I decided to do that myself. It took awhile to get into the habit, but it helps me to stay respectful with people. Some of the old-fashioned customs are worth preserving.

      We’ve had a nice weekend, pleasant and uneventful, with beautiful weather. Can’t ask for more! Hope yours was lovely too.

      • Sheila

        It was delightful, thank you, ma’am! 🙂 We walked on that Virginia Beach boardwalk, strolling our first daughter, when Bill was stationed at Oceana Naval Station. I would love to go back there. Thank you for the photo.

        • Well y’all will just have to come up sometime! Our York home is only about 45 minutes from where this photo was taken. 🙂

      • Julia, you are right to admire the cardiologist. Only a person secure in their own “position” can show proper respect to others. Remember the deference, in French, between using “vous” and “tu”?

        • Oui! Comment allez-vous? 🙂 (Please DON’T answer “Il est midi!”)

          • Anon E. Moose

            Tres bien, merci. Et vous?

            • Il est midi. Literally.

  4. merry

    Julia, I was so pleased to read your UR post. I greet strangers as if they’re friends…with a smile and greeting. I usually don’t meet strangers…they are friends. If people are rude, I usually just ignore it. And not let it disturbed my day. :}

    • Merry, I love that! I do think most “strangers” are only friends we haven’t met yet. The rest are people who need friends even if they don’t know it. 🙂 Thanks so much for being here!


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