Soundoff: Bring back common courtesy


I was in an off-island eatery the other day sipping a nice cup of coffee. Comfortably entrenched, I observed, entering the establishment, to be what I thought was a kindly older couple. Oh ... they were friendly alright, to the other patrons to whom they waved a recognizing hand.

But to the waitress, I frankly was shocked.

They were laconic and rude, treating her as if she were someone beneath their station in life. They complained to her about everything with misplaced abandon and when the poor thing had left, sent on some demanded errand, they castigated her unmercifully.

Have we lost the art of being grateful? When did we lose our kindness as a people? Since when did the freedom of speech waive the responsibility of being courteous? It is no wonder we talk of our presidents in such demeaning and disrespectful rhetoric. Remember, we were founded as a nation to be without aristocracy, so why is it we act as if personal elitism is a virtue to strive for?

I say, take the time to recognize those who serve you with compassionate gratitude, that person who works on your behalf even if they are paid to do so. Make someone else’s day a little free-er, a little lighter.

Do you really think restaurants want you to have cold coffee? Does the transit driver really want you to be late? Does the person at the ferry ticket booth really want yo to miss the next ferry? Does the bank teller really not want your account to balance? And does the teenager working his first job at McD’s really want you to have a strawberry instead of chocolate milkshake? Is this what you really think?

Lately, I’ve been really trying to watch how I say and how I write things to others. In the imperfect realm of human institutions mistakes happen and with regularity. Why not be gracious? I think there’s a lot at stake. How I treat that person who might have made a mistake will tell them more about the God I believe in than all of the church services I’ve been to, the many hours of Bible study I’ve devoted, and all of the prayer groups I’ve attended.

A very wealthy and wise man once questioned me, “Son, do you want to be right all the time or be rich?”

I replied, “Why, rich, of course.” After all, I was 23 at the time.

He asked, “Rich in what, is the next question?”

I hesitated, then answered, “Money?”

“No,” he laughed.

Then with kind eyes he shared with me, “Relationships. Relationships are gold. If you get them right, you’ll discover what true wealth is!”

If we were all a bit more forgiving, a little more gracious, and a whole lot more grateful as adults, maybe, just maybe, our children will grow up thankful. For the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, even when the tree is rotten.

I thank Jesus every day I’ve been blessed to live on this island called Whidbey with all of you. Merry Christmas and a grateful New Year.

Thanks for being good neighbors.

Rick Karjalainen lives in Coupeville.

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