Thursday, April 4, 2013

Common Courtesy and thoughts on whining

It's the little things that make the biggest difference somehow, and I've been really noticing something lately. 
me, today, standing on a still-frozen Loon Lake
When I am scurrying from my car in the parking lot to the store (or wherever), and a car stops for me (whether there is a stop sign or not), I always wave a hand in thanks.  Or if I'm driving a car and someone lets me in to the line of traffic, I wave my hand or nod my head in thanks.  If I'm the one in the car, I'll always stop and wave on the walker (or it could be another car trying to get into the line of traffic) or let the car into the traffic stream.

But what I've really been noticing is the number of people lately who just walk in front of your car (that you have stopped specifically for them), and never so much as put up a hand in thanks, or even notice that a nice person driving a car has stopped where it wasn't a crosswalk or there wasn't a stop sign, just to let them cross.  Sometimes they are just too busy looking at their phones to have even noticed that you stopped for them (and their baby stroller, and kids in tow).  But really, it doesn't take but a moment to wave an acknowledgement of thanks, and you might really make someone's day! 
my car on a summer day
Yesterday, I was in line for something, not in a hurry at all, and the (handsome) man in front of me told me his transaction would take longer than mine and insisted I go first.  I swear, he was so sweet that it just made my day!  And then he told me he had parked next to me in the lot, and that seeing my car had made him smile and think of spring!!!  (Keep in mind that a couple of days ago it was snowing and frigid, with icy wind, in the 30's, and it felt like November.)  Yesterday was a little better, still windy, but more like March, but still not exactly what we want for April weather, so I really was glad that my car gave someone something to smile about.  And today it was still cool and windy, but the sun was bright and it was a lovely day.

A post on another blog that I read today made me think today about something I did a few years ago, that relates to the common courtesy theme of this post.  I had heard a story on public radio about a challenge to go 21 days without complaining.  (Check out the specifics here: http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/.)  For the challenge, you wear a little purple rubber bracelet, and every time you whine about something, or gossip, or complain, you move the bracelet to the opposite wrist.  Often it takes a few months before someone can last 21 days without uttering a complaint, without moving thee bracelet.  I don't remember how long it took me, but it was quite a while.  My students helped me!  In my classroom, where my rules were displayed, the students all knew the #1 rule was NO Whining!  (The rule was not the result of the challenge.  The rule had been there for much longer than that!)  We talked about the alternatives to whining when something wasn't going right.  The art room should a happy place and you can always find a solution when something doesn't go as planned.  After all, stating a problem is not always a complaint; it's the way it is said and the attitude that is really important.  Maya Angelou said:

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.”

This quote hung on my classroom door for a long time; I think it is perfect.  But anyhow, about that complaining... The first change I made was in my mornings.  I am a night-owl, so I was always in a hurry getting to school in the morning.  And the parking lot situation was... um... a little challenging.  I would get out of my car and complain that students were parking in the good spots instead of the student lot, that a car had cut me off getting into the lot, that the roads were icy, that I was parked too far from the school since I was carrying a bunch of stuff, etc.  You get the idea.  I started my day in a fit of negativity.  So instead, knowing I didn't want to have to move my bracelet, I would give the custodian who directs the morning traffic a big smile,  say good morning, and then say thank you to him (for making sure cars stopped so I could get across the crosswalk).   Often when I did this, other teachers scurried by never even noticing he was there.  The custodian always smiled back and told me to have a great day.  By the time I got to my classroom I was still smiling, and my day was off to a terrific start.

In the few years since I completed the 21 day challenge, I know I have complained from time-to-time, but up until my retirement I never once started my school day without the good morning, the smile, and the thank you to the custodian.  (Consequently, as I'm sure you would expect, the custodian would bend over backwards to help me whenever I needed a hand with something!)  Yes, I slip from time to time; you've heard me complain occasionally on the blog, but in general, I have chosen to take a more proactive approach to problems and challenges.  And while I don't wear the purple bracelet any more, it still sits proudly on my bathroom jewelry shelf where I see it every morning.

So, I thank YOU dear blog readers, for just being you!  I'm so happy to have you stopping in from time to time!

14 comments:

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    1. If this were Facebook, I'd give you a 'like'!

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  2. So interesting. I was driving with someone in my car yesterday and she was making the same observation about folks not saying "thank you" or giving a wave much anymore. One thing I've noticed when I'm in Montana during the summer, almost all the people driving up and down the dirt trail where my brother's house is wave to each other as they pass -- such a nice custom. It always makes me feel good!!

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  3. I whole heartedly agree with your positive attitude. My day begins brilliantly if I haven't moaned about something, or someone hasn't off loaded onto me. The negative has a destructive roll-on effect. I occasionally travel by bus in our city and am always warmed to hear the majority of passengers thank the bus driver as they leave.Thank you Phyl.

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  4. First of all, I am absolutely ticked that ANYONE is even reading this post, and wow, you are commenting too! I figured that my readers are more interested in artsy stuff, but I guess I was wrong.

    Second of all, I just realized what an old photo of my car that must be - because nowadays it has several more dragonflies on it!

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    1. Oops, I meant TICKLED, not TICKED! How embarrassing to leave that mistake in my comment above. I am thrilled and thankful that you are reading this and don't want I leave the wrong impression. Thanks!

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  5. love it! Yep there is a lot of complaining lately with these SLO's that need to be written, less time for blogging and so on so THANKS for this post! I have been posting positive thoughts lately on fb, Maybe because spring is here and there is always time to start fresh! :)

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  6. Phyl, my husband and I have an ongoing joke about giving "the wave". We thought it would have been a great story line for a Seinfeld episode. So when we are polite enough to someone in and they don't give the obligatory "wave", we do our best mock Seinfeld impression bemoaning the issue. ;)

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    1. Mary, as a big Seinfeld fan, I just LOVE your comment! Thanks for putting a big smile on my face! :))

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  7. We have been using our imaginary purple bracelets this weekend. It's excellent.

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  8. Good for you! This is a great resolution. No one will listen to me complain so that made me pretty much give up! I pretty much have myself surrounded by proactive or positive people so there's no choice. Seriously though, no one really wants to hear anyone else's problems around here and when you stop complaining you kind of forget about the complaints anyways! On the other hand, I've always found though that listening to other people's complaints is somewhat therapeutic for them and people love to be heard. Although it can get exhausting to be the listener. I have a listening box in my classroom because I do get overloaded. Kids write their complaints down and usually by the time they've written it out they feel better anyways. To them it's the listening box to me it's the complaint box!

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  9. Startingthedaypositive, every day. Great advice, Phyl. Thanks for your post.

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  10. I so agree about the common courtesy. I'm the same as you, always try to stop for someone else, etc and wave to say thankyou. One of my little gripes are the people who sail past when it is obvious that I have waited for them, stopped for them, and they don't acknowledge it at all! So now I wave cheerily...perhaps not very...and smile, hoping that next time they might...perhaps...wave back!
    The purple band is a great idea, not one I've heard about. I think I might give it a go, I often find myself having little whinges about the weather, politicians, maybe they are open game, and ..perhaps I had better stop right now! Have a good dau, Mrs A

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