I really like the song “Everything Must Change” and I know that there is a lot of truth in this sentiment. There are however many things from the past that should be retained in order for us to maintain a “civil” society. For the purposes of this discussion we will concentrate on just one thing – the nature of mutual give and take.
I have noticed in recent years, especially with the steadily increasing popularization of social media outlets, that more and more people are engaging in very one-sided relationships. There are celebrities and so-called celebrities who ask their “friends/followers” to do everything from buy their latest cd/product offering to quote what they have said as the Lord’s gospel or changing their profile picture to whatever said star’s is. What do they offer in return? Good question; for many the answer is absolutely nothing. They will not respond if you tweet (speak to) them directly on twitter nor do they appear to show much if any appreciation. I believe that this type of behavior is now falling under the modern definition of marketing. Well I studied marketing in college and though it was a few years ago I guarantee you that the basic precepts have not changed very much.
That’s the celebrities. Some may say their lack of civility is a bit more acceptable. After all, many of them have millions of followers on twitter and who has the time to respond to all of the people individually? I disagree as only a small percentage will actually make contact, but even if we take them out of the picture let’s discuss the everyday Jane/Joe.
Talking has come to represent, for many people aged 35 and under (and even some “old heads”), a less than desirable means of communication. Many people prefer to text or tweet to communicate with others. I have seen tweets where people say “why are they calling me if I sent them a text?” Interestingly enough, these very same people expect the phone to be answered when they are on the dialing end of it.
In recent days I have had discussions about and have mentally explored the concept of “pay it forward.” While it is true that some people you are just not in a position to ever repay for the kind things that they are able to do for you. In those instances, instead of attempting to pay them back you pay the kindness forward. In most cases, however, we ideally operate from a position of treating others the way we expect to be treated.
I would like to offer some former “givens” that I would like to see return to common society.
1. Afford people with kindness and attention- this means that when someone calls you, you return the call when available. There are some subsets of this: listen to the voice mail message if the person took the time to leave it (it is rude not to do so); if you tell someone you are going to “call them back” do it- if you have no intentions of it don’t say it; and when you receive a text or call acknowledge it.
2. Return to actually talking “voice to voice” with people. No it doesn’t have to be every day nor does it have to be for an especially long period of time, but most people appreciate a phone call or visit above all else. Many still appreciate an old-fashioned, hand written letter but understand that most people don’t have or take the time to do such things anymore.
3. We have become very comfortable with telling ourselves and others what we are too busy to do or what we don’t have time for. There is a truth that has not changed since the truth was the truth- people do any and every thing that they WANT to do. Be honest with yourself and others and stop saying that you don’t have time. It is not necessarily hurtful to say “that’s not on the top of my priority list right now” or “I’m sorry but right now I’m focusing on doing some other things.” The notion of busy makes us feel good- implies that we are serving some life’s purpose. Sometimes, we are just busy being busy. And please understand that the time you are unwilling to give to someone else will soon become the time they no longer give to you.
I ask you earnestly and cheerfully to examine how you treat those you say you care about in your life. My assumption is that we all have a desire to make those we love and care about (to whatever degree) feel loved and cared about. With this assumption I think we all should make a greater effort to:
- regularly show people how important they are to us through regular voice and physical contact
- make time- tomorrow is not promised to any of us
- spread love- your smile, hug, and/or kindness may be all that a person has to draw on to get through this day
- admit when you are making mistakes and make the immediate effort to fix the problem instead of going on the defensive
Again, I know that everything must change but it is imperative that some things remain the same and love and civility are two of those things.