Thank you … for holding the door for me. Thank you … for removing your golf cap upon entering the restaurant. Thank you … for slowing and allowing me ample opportunity to enter the Traffic Circle. Thank you … for not despoiling our roadways by throwing trash from the window of your car. Thank you … for listening to my point of view even though you may disagree with it.

Thank you for your many courtesies which demonstrate in so many ways your civility and kindness. Civility is something we all wish to experience and to practice, but so many of us don’t.

It’s not really that difficult when you think about it. As some have defined it, civility “is usually demonstrated through manners, courtesy, politeness and a general awareness of the rights, wishes, concerns and feelings of others.”

Last February, it was my pleasure to conduct a course for local senior citizens at Sandhills Community College titled “Civility in Public Discourse: Political or Otherwise.” Through this learning opportunity, civic-minded adult class participants were exposed to and discussed issues of civility in all of its various forms.

Regrettably, it was the consensus of our class that a lack of civility permeates every aspect of our lives — ranging from personal conduct to interpersonal relationships, and even to gridlock at our national and state levels. It is amplified by news media analysis, the pervasive effect of social media, and rally appeals by our nation’s political leaders.

People are so discouraged by our nation’s general lack of civility (and especially by the seeming dysfunction at the very top reaches of our government) that they are becoming disillusioned by the direction of our society.

Our conclusion was that something radical must be done to re-instill respect and civility in the conduct of our affairs. A start would be to initiate programs focusing on matters of civility for our younger generations in elementary and secondary schools, and continuing on as part of post-high school education and workplace experiences.

It should be noted that a beginning has been made to address the issue here in our own Moore County school system. At West Pine Middle School, the Positivity Project (or P2) has been initiated. While not strictly focused on issues of civility, the program provides an opportunity for daily discussions among students on character strengths: gratitude, bravery, self-control, humor, integrity and perseverance.

The P2 concept, established by former Army officer and local resident Mike Erwin, has been implemented in hundreds of schools in many states across the country. It is a program that should be implemented more broadly in our own school system.

In an article in The Pilot of July 21 titled “When All Else Fails, Let’s Just Follow George,” local resident Wayne Boyles writes of George Washington’s famous pamphlet “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.” Our very first president, more than 200 years ago, had some humorous and interesting perspectives on civility. We all would do well to take note and apply them today.

Sandhills Community College will again be offering a class on civility this fall. Discussed will be personal experiences related to issues of civility, as well as thoughts on local and national developments including Washington’s 110 Rules.

To register contact the college’s Center for Creative Living at (910) 695-3980.

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