Two little things before we start. Firstly, Wolf has finished the beautiful illustration for my post on “Zombie Teachers”. Well, actually she finished it a few days ago, but I kept forgetting to scan it, so my bad. Of course I’ll add it to the relevant post, but here it is for all to see! I really admire Wolf’s work, and can’t wait to see what she enters in the competition!
Secondly, I’ve created a Facebook page. I already have Google Plus (by accident, it came with my email, I didn’t even... never mind), but as nobody appears to have Google Plus, you can go and “like” my page at www.facebook.com/CatherineAnnMinnock. I’ll share updates about my writing and any links I think you’ll enjoy, as I've done a lot of writing-based research on the internet over the years. I hope it’ll be the go-to page for teenage writers very soon!
Now, onto manners...
This is something which has always been important to me, and it’s essential to the theme of relationships. Manners-based problems have been eating at me for a while now—invariably with their elbows on the table—so I wanted to write about what good manners mean and why they’re important.
Good manners were always paramount in my primary school and in my home. Even if I was having a tantrum as a child I would still remember to say “please” and “thank you”. When I went anywhere with my dad, he’d say “hello” and “how are you, sir/ma’am” to everyone we passed. They would smile politely back. I decided that his greeting of strangers was an ‘Irish thing’ and couldn’t wait to see for myself. Indeed, I imagined the country as a cornucopia of manners and friendliness.
I make a point of smiling at everyone I meet and am astounded by the lack of response from people who either drop their gaze or look back at me as if I’ve just run over their pet Labrador. I don’t want to turn this into a lecture, and I should mention that of course there are some of the loveliest, most polite people you’ll meet here in Ireland, but it makes me rather sad when I make the effort just to be shot down.
Manners go a lot further than minding your P’s and Q’s or holding open a door (though those are a good place to start). Manners are about the way you treat other people, with your actions, words and body language. When you talk to someone, do you look right into their eyes? When you listen to someone, do you... well, listen? Do you think about the effect your smile, your insightful question, your text or call or email might have on another human being?
Manners are about how we interact with each other—they are rooted in respect. Do we ask people questions about themselves? Do we make sure everybody is included and catered for? Do we try our best to make sure negative feelings are kept at bay?
Sometimes I get the feeling that, especially among young people (though as I’ve said before, there are grown-up culprits...), manners are considered un-cool. Rubbish, in my opinion. If I leave you a message, does it mean I have nothing better to do? Not necessarily—it means I’m thinking of you. If I smile at you when I see you, does it mean I’m hopelessly in love with you? Almost definitely not—it means I want your day to be as bright as mine. If I thank the teacher after class, does it make me a teacher’s pet? Not necessarily—it means I remember that teachers are human, too... mostly.
It means I have manners.
Of course, I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination! I need to work on my language, think of things to talk about with people who look lonely, and remember to get in touch with old friends.
Remember, there’s more to manners than the obvious. They’re a little thing that can make a huge difference to someone’s life.
And yes. I am now an eighty-year-old grandmother. I make no apology. Direct your complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. But please, do so politely.