By James Barraford
It grates me that when I hold the door open for others, I am not met with a thank you, but deafening silence.
Perhaps I am being too Type A about what might be an innocuous faux pas. Decorum – and the disregard of it – isn’t a de facto representation of who a person is.
And besides, from the looks of things, the world seems to be on fire.
But the question lingered on anyway, and I decided this semester to go on with the article.
As I walked toward the ancient and ruddy bricked exterior of May Hall, its nearly countless windows staring down like eyes, I saw a student just a few paces away from me.
My intensity and conviction were that of a race walker in the summer Olympics. Anyone from the sidelines could see from my exaggerated gait that I was a man on a mission.
Soon, I was in front of the student. I grasped the door knob and opened it.
With my arm awkwardly extended backwards, I held it for the student behind me. The student then walked through. The door slipped from my grasp.
Without a single word spoken, we both went our separate ways on the second Moor.
Now, let’s be clear, the intention of this article is not to castigate or condemn. The intention is to simply address a pet peeve with larger implications.
In FSU’s defense, this is a behavior that extends far beyond these brick walls. Just the other day, I walked into Planet Fitness and held open the door for another guest and was met with silence.
As I began my workout, and watched gym-goers move through their routines, their bodies moving in a mechanistic rhythm, it left me wondering – as situations like these always did – why are we acting this way?
Am I being fussy that I find this issue bothersome?
Maybe I am just getting older and more crotchety, but I can’t help but feel this basic element of manners is slipping from our grasp.
It is almost as if when someone acts courteously, there is an implicit expectation that the act will not be acknowledged. It is just a matter of cause and effect.
Our bodies are like the metallic balls of Newton’s cradle that clack together moving back and forth – mindlessly fulfilling our obligations.
Yet, I have met many FSU students on campus, and know they are more than just that. They are people with dreams and aspirations, fears and hopes, and by virtue of being on campus, aiming to enrich their lives and others.
Maybe, just maybe, we could ask ourselves, “Would it hurt to say thank you?”
However, it would require being more present. Our distractions, responsibilities, and notifications would have to be put on pause for a moment.
I know that in today’s day and age, that is no small order. However, steps taken incrementally can make a seemingly Herculean task possible.
Small steps can have a large impact on the world.
We live in a world on the precipice as global alliances shift and modulate. Things we have taken for granted no longer seem certain. Our age is one of discontent and anxiety.
It can seem like a lot. But change can start with us.
It is fostered by the individual.
But what is small in our existence affects the large, and vice versa. The massive movement of nations can be impacted by the actions of a small group of people.
Saying ‘thank you’ recognizes the kind act of a stranger. It shows we value someone we may never see again.
There is no reason anyone should hold the door open for anyone. Really, it is a miracle human beings can create complex social systems that allow us to effectively coexist.
These are the small acts of awareness – the glue which reminds us, life is more than just me, my desires, and my problems – that keep our world functioning.
When we acknowledge others, we acknowledge ourselves.
By being intentional with others, we honor our humanity.
So please, say thank you.