Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"You First."

Recently I navigated a crowded parking lot on a weekend, trying to get back out to the street along with everyone else. At an intersection in the lot, one of the four directions had a "Stop" sign, but the other three did not. One lane was full of people trying to get in and out, while the intersecting lane was a mix of some people trying to find parking stalls, and others coming or going. You can imagine the scene--chaos. We were all fighting for space. In my sometimes feisty moods, I have found myself in the push-and-shove mentality that pervades our fast-paced culture. I started to feel the irritation of the moment, but then I looked the driver across from me right in the eye and gestured, "No, you go first."

Don't get me wrong, this reaction did not come naturally or easily, but it did catch me off guard and I've been thinking about it ever since. How often do we stop worrying about rushing to the next place, to practice good manners? I witnessed this behavior today in an exemplary display of civility by our freshly sworn-in President, Barack Obama, and by his wife Michelle. No matter who any of us voted for or what he even accomplishes while in office,
today was a class act.

Due to the fact that we don't have television in our home (another story for another time), I found myself racing over to the gym at 8:30am this morning to hop onto a cardio machine that was connected to a TV. Luckily for me there was one left so I didn't miss the inauguration! I'm glad I kept going on the machine after the speech, the poetry, and the prayer. The farewell was the thing to watch: the Obama's escorting the Bush's down the long White House steps to their military transport. The commentators mentioned they had never seen this before, and I'm sure they hadn't. It took the utmost degree of respect to pull this off without it looking phony or rehearsed. Who knows if it was the new administration's idea, or those staging the event; the tone was set to remind us all that politeness, courtesy, and good etiquette still matter after all.

If you missed this part, go back and see what I witnessed. The announcers reminded us that the event was now a half-hour behind schedule. The luncheon guests were standing in a hallway, waiting for the President, Vice President, and their wives to climb back up the stairs. But the four of them patiently waited for the helicopter to fire up, and for everyone to get into position for flight. It was quite a while before the helicopter took off, and then the four remaining all waved, even threw in a salute. I won't tell you my political affiliation, but I will tell you this act of civility today was proof that the "old virtues" referred to in the inaugural speech are alive at the White House, and yes, Mr. Obama, they are "true." Thank you for getting us started with Civility.

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