A pause for civility

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

It was a simple question, one I've asked before in moments of extreme desperation. But this time, the answer went beyond merely helpful. 

“Excuse me,” I said to the dapper young host standing at the podium in a fine Canadian restaurant. “Where's your restroom?”

“It's right over there, my good man,” he responded. Coming at the end of 2013, a year of strident, often hostile discourse, it was a moment of jarring civility. I almost wept, and would have embraced him if I hadn't feared smearing the reservation list with grateful tears. 

My good man. I'd never been called that before, and I've been using the phrase ever since. As I'm handed my Egg McMuffin: “Thanks, my good man.” To a stranger in the street: “Good morning, my good man.” While affirming a high-quality male friendship: “You're a good man, my good man.” I haven't found an appropriate equivalent for women — my good ma'am? — but I am working on it. 

To reach a higher level of courtesy and respect in our own lives and in long-term care workplaces, we have two choices. We can move to Canada and seek to become more like its indigenous people. Or we can just decide to be nicer to each other. 

Maybe in 2014 we need to institute wound prevention protocols for all interpersonal and public interactions. We would avoid sitting with one opinion too long without exploring other positions. We would consider our words more carefully and frequently before speaking, or tweeting. 

“Pauses are the spaces in which passions cool, civility gets its oxygen, and wisdom quite possibly finds its wings,” says New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. He aims to reduce “the fever pitch and jagged edges” of our communication and “trade the sugary highs and lows of rapid-fire outrage for a more balanced diet.”

Well said, Frank. Thanks, my good man. 


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