Recently I was working on a story for the local newspaper when the man I was interviewing gave me an unexpected compliment. “I’ve met one of your sons," he said.
"He has very good manners."
I thanked him while mentally visualizing my son engaged in a belching contest with his siblings.
A similar incident happened when our younger sons returned from visiting a friend. I thanked the boy’s mother for having the twins over and to my surprise she said,
"They were very well-behaved. And what good manners they have!"
This time I couldn’t resist. I asked if she was sure we were talking about the same little boys. The ones I am familiar with love to wad their socks up and throw them at anyone within firing range. They wouldn’t dream of hanging up a bath towel when they are finished with it or ever think of throwing their dirty clothes in the hamper. And if there are two pieces of pie left and one slice is bigger than the other, they are capable of fighting like they’d been trained by the World Wrestling Federation.
Hearing the compliments about my children gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, some of the things I’ve told them have sunk in.
Good manners do matter. I don’t think I’ll ever forget an incident a few years ago while I was helping a friend plant a tree at the local park. She had planted 23 trees in all, most of them without any help. The trees were donated in remembrance of loved ones by family members. While we were working a lady approached us. I recognized her and assumed she was there to say thank you.
"Remember the tree you planted for me the other day?" she asked.
My friend nodded.
"You planted it too close to the road. It needs to be moved." Then she turned and left.
I don’t think this lady was intentionally rude. She was probably distracted or maybe she’d had a bad day, but the fact remains that out of the 23 trees my friend planted, only two people remembered to say
My mother always said "please" and "thank you" are more than just words. They’re magic words…no matter how old you are.
Mama was right.