Recent events once again have me thinking of that book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. For a while, it was everywhere and quotes from it appeared regularly. I’m afraid that, like too many other positive things in life, it has been forgotten. The basic skills we learn in kindergarten and those necessary to succeed in life – simple but too often forgotten. Courtesy is no longer common and too many people are refusing to act without promise of a personal benefit. Saying please and thank you, taking turns and sometimes just simply being nice are too infrequent. You can say it’s a sign of the times; that with everyone uncertain about what is around the corner, it is necessary to think of ones self to avoid being taken advantage of or left behind. However, I think that in difficult times, it is even MORE important to remember manners and just plain be nice to people.
The government is a prime example of dysfunction, but this appalling lack of manners is also seen in many workplaces and social interactions. I am still surprised when salesclerks are surprised when I turn attention from my phone to them (on the rare occasion I find it necessary to use my cell phone in public). More than once, I have been told that “No one has ever done that before.” I find this not just sad, but appalling. How have we become a society that raises tools to a level of such importance that they supersede human contact?
Taking turns also seems to be something that some adults are struggling with today. Waiting for a turn in line, waiting for a light to turn green, this is sometimes more than people can manage. We have become accustomed to instant gratification. This has gone was beyond the fast food of our youth. We can get movies in seconds, see photos on our cameras the instant they are taken, get items at our door the day after we order them, and make and receive phone calls and messages no matter where we are. (A pet peeve of mine – people expecting me to be available to answer said phone call or message at any time. There are certain times that you will not be able to reach me. Deal with it.)
Likewise compromise is something almost unheard of. Too many people have an overblown sense of entitlement and will not give without receiving, or in some cases, will not give at all, claiming that they have “done enough” already. This of course will not work if both sides share this attitude. Compromise is taking turns: today you get to choose, tomorrow I get to choose. Or, I get to choose a,b,c and you can choose x,y,z. Overall, the result should be fair.
Fairness is another concept at issue. Our constitution claims all men are created equal. Not really. Equal potential, maybe, but life circumstances can change the balance either way. Likewise, God-given talents vary from person to person. I believe that there is a balance that can be said to be fair, but not equal and I think that most parents of multiple children would agree with me. (Though teaching our children that life is not always fair is important.) This concept of all being equal adds to the sense of entitlement prevalent in our culture.
Yes, our parents told us we can have it all. However, that does not mean we can walk all over other people to get it. Logically speaking, if we can all have it all, we have to find a way to share and get along. In most cases, there is more than enough to go around. In this country, most of us have way more than we need and frequently much more than is good for us. A kindergartener could figure out the solution: share, take turns, be nice. Manners matter.