If only money could buy manners

“Top 15 Things Money Can’t Buy: Time. Happiness. Inner Peace. Integrity. Love. Character. Manners. Health. Respect. Morals. Trust. Patience. Class. Common sense. Dignity.” ― Roy T. Bennett, inspirational author

Manners were important to my parents and grandparents. They were incorporated into my upbringing along with an understanding of the importance of that effort, something for which I am deeply grateful.

So it was that I learned things about a civilized society that were important to two generations of my family, and I tried to instill some of the same in my children as well.

Things like a gentleman removes his hat when entering a building or sitting down to eat with others.

“Take your cap off. It’s ill-mannered to wear a hat in the house, ” Granny informed me the first time. “And don’t ever sit down at the dinner table with a cap or hat on your head.” The second time, she wasn’t so subtle. Her reminder consisted of snatching the cap off my head and handing it to me while she asked rather sternly, “What did I tell you about taking off that cap?”

A gentleman always opens the door for a lady.

My father took time to make sure I understood that one. Especially one time that I forgot it when he was with me. As we walked into Perry’s 5¢ and 10¢ store in Mount Pleasant, Texas, where he was the manager, he quickly stepped up to hold the door for the lady behind us, then apologized. “Please pardon my son’s rudeness. I’ve tried to teach him some manners, but he seems to have forgotten them today.”

When asking for something, say, “Please.” When given something, say, “Thank you.”

Granny got her point across on that one at the soda fountain in Lockett’s Drug Store in Pittsburg one summer afternoon where she treated me to a strawberry ice cream cone. Delight was headed my way as the treat was placed in my young hands, but short-lived when she abruptly took it from me.

I looked up with what had to be a terribly startled expression to hear her say, ”Thank you,” to the man who had just delivered the delectable delight to me. She took a bite of it, then looked at me and said, “You must not have wanted it very badly, you didn’t thank the man.” I looked at him, looked at Granny, then back at the man behind the soda fountain and offered my most humble, “Thank you.” I got the ice cream cone back, minus one bite for being minus my manners.

Address others, especially your elders, with respect.

“What do you say,” I remember having drilled into me when speaking to someone. “Yes,” was my response. “Yes … what,” would be the next question coming my way? “Yes, ma’am,” had better have been the next words out of my mouth if I was addressing a lady. “Yes, sir,” if speaking to a man.

“Manners are not important just because I say so,” my father was careful to point out. “They are a measure of how you respect people. If you show people respect, they will come a lot closer to respecting you.”

That upbringing caused a news story that I read last week to strike me as deeply troubling. According to the story, a school teacher reportedly punished a student for including, “Ma’am,” in his response to her because she didn’t like it.

For doing what any properly reared child is expected to do in order to be respectful, the student was reprimanded and made to write, “Ma’am,” four times on each line on each side of a piece of ruled notebook paper.

It’s painfully obvious that not everyone was blessed with parents and grandparents like mine, or with parents like this student is obviously fortunate to have.

True enough, money can’t buy respect, manners, or for that matter common sense. But if it could, there sure are some people these days who would be in dire need of a “Go Fund Me” account.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers.

One thought on “If only money could buy manners

  1. So true! So true! My grandmother used to say, “Thank you cost nothing but goes a long way.” When she rested, which was rare, she would say, “Laziness is no good unless it is well carried out.”


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