Manners and Pride

I was sitting in my truck waiting for the Mrs. to come out of the grocery store. We were making a quick provisions stop for milk, eggs and Blue Bell. Staples. I had pulled up front and dropped her off then swung way out to the middle of the parking area where I could people watch and wait for her to come out. That was when I got mad.

If you don’t have a daughter, you might not get this, you should but maybe not. The young couple came out of the grocery store, I would guess them to be early 20’s or so. She had bags in both hands. They walked together and up to a really nice truck. It was a full size pickup with expensive tires and wheels. I envied the truck set up. She walked to the passenger door and he lifted his free hand to click the unlock button. She struggled past the car parked next to them, swung the bags inside and hopped up into the truck. He was already inside. I thought to myself, “If I ever saw a guy treat my daughter that way, I would be pissed.” She carried all the bags, opened her own door and struggled to do it all.

I have witnessed the lack of manners so many times in the last few years it bothers me. No, it makes me mad. Young men that don’t hold the door for the girl they are with, foul language in the presence of a lady or girl. I even struggle with the idea of a young man having a girl pay for their dinners, gas, gifts, etc.

I have been a fan of Dear Abby for years. Back when getting a newspaper delivered to the house or seeking a Sunday paper was an anticipated pleasure. Spending hours indulging in a long relaxing read, the outdoor section, the want ads and Dear Abby were always on the must read list. There was another columnist I enjoyed but it was harder to find her writings in as many papers. It was Miss Manners.

Judith Martin is the go-to expert known as Miss Manners. She has been the official expert on how to hold your fork, how to sit, how to introduce yourself and so much more. Ms. Martin’s column, which started in 1978, runs three times a week in more than 200 publications.

Nicholas Martin is the director of operations at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As he rides to work each day on the Metro Union Pacific rail he is reading the hundreds of questions and thoughts received by Miss Manners, his mom Judith. Nicholas’ sister Jacobina is also working on the barrage of inquiries. The three recently began working together to provide the answers society is asking about manners.

A few years ago I met a lady who held the most incredible summer camps. It was girls only at the time and the idea took my heart. She would accept 12 girls for a week into her old colonial style home. For the five days she had them, they were taught to be a lady, old style. They learned how to set a table, sit at a table, table manners. They we taught how to care for a family and what to expect from a young man. The list goes on, I thought it brilliant.

At the end of the camp they all gathered with their parents for a formal dinner they prepared and set. I have thought of that camp often and how important it was. She had talked about doing it with boys too but we have since lost touch and I don’t know if that ever happened. I hope it did.

Recently my youngest, 17, and I visited Washington, D.C. Two of the must stops for us, an absolute, were the WWII and Vietnam Memorials. It was powerful. As we stood quietly looking at the names engraved in the black stone-wall of the Vietnam Memorial, he said, “If I ever saw someone burn an American flag or those people who are stomping on it, I would kick their butt.” I knew the feeling. I was almost in tears thinking of how many young men died in battle and how those who came back struggled to get by.

As we walked the Mall between the Lincoln Monument and the memorials, a long line of vets being pushed in wheelchairs passed by. I thanked every one of them. They were all flown in by the group Honor Flight, a group that raises money to bring the World War Two vets in to see their memorial. I overheard some of the conversations and was moved to the edge of tears again.

I began my rebellious teen years at about 11. I remember once my dad took my older brother and I to a baseball game inside the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. Just before the game began everyone stood for the National Anthem. I stayed sitting with my cap on. When it was over my dad, a former Marine, leaned over and made it real clear to me that if I ever chose to do that again he would take my life from me and that would be it for me here on planet earth. That made a big impression on me. I don’t know that I can recall ever seeing that look in his eyes ever, before or after.

My youngest is probably one of the most respectful young men you would ever want to meet. He opens the door for girls, he says yes ma’am, yes sir. He pays for the things he should when on a date. Seeing those memorials moved him. Watching American Sniper moved him, even more after he learned the backstory and how the hero was neglected by the president on the day of his funeral. This young man’s heart is deeply moved by the Knights Code. Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrong, and Follow the King

My daughter is 21. She grew up having her daddy and brothers open the door for her. She was treated as a young lady and expects it from every boy she has dated. She will not tolerate anything less.

I saw a buddy of mine had pictures posted recently of him and his young daughter on a daddy and daughter date. It was beautiful and the joy in his daughter’s eyes was obvious.

So my thought is how do we train the untrained boys out there to respect the young ladies in their world? How do we train the young ladies to expect nothing less than the those things a boy should offer and provide? How do we teach pride in our country and what we stand for? It seems to rarely happen in school. Institutional organization is more of what they get there even in Christian schools. In church they are told to be good little boys and girls. They learn cute bible stories that I love, but I am not sure it teaches them what I am addressing here. Not every church, teacher, Sunday school class is like that, but most I would surmise. I don’t think they can be effective teaching kids real manners or pride for country anyway, it has to come from home. Parents, grandparents, mentors. Problem there is that a lot of adults today don’t have any manners or pride in this country either. So many parents today are not looking into the eyes of their kids with the death stare and telling them what is okay and what is not okay. They must also be living examples of who their kids need to be.

My friend told about a recent after church lunch encounter that proved my point. They decided on a restaurant that apparently everyone else decided was the place to go for lunch. The waiting time was 30 minutes and groups of friends and families were bunched up waiting to be called to their table. The benches that lined the foyer and entry were full. On one side was what appeared to be a dad, granddad, and two teen sons. Standing up in front of them were ladies. A grandmother type, my friend’s wife, others. The boys were glued to their phones, the dad and granddad seemed to be oblivious to the grievous violation of courtesy, manners and manhood.

My friend said he held back from saying anything, I am afraid I would have laid into them.

But the example was clear. It was not because school or church were not doing their job. The science teacher or coach was not to blame. There is no curriculum or bible verse that would change what these boys were learning by the example of their father and grandfather.

Miss Manners said, “Etiquette is all human social behavior. If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if somebody comes up the mountain, then you’ve got a problem. It matters because we want to live in reasonably harmonious communities.”

It hurts my heart to think we may never see an America with the pride for country and our service men and women like we have had in the past. It frustrates me to see kids today, adults today, with the manners of a mule or maybe the other word they use for mule, what is that word again?

Boys, don’t disrespect girls. Open the doors, quit the foul language in their presence and be a good guy. Girls, expect a lot and act like a lady because you deserve it and you should. If you see a soldier by gosh say hello or thank you. The old ways, the way our grandparents were taught were a pretty good example. Really it was.

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