“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.”
Jimmy Stewart spoke these words as young, idealistic Sen. Jefferson Smith in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” another film classic by Frank Capra, director of Christmas staple “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Sen. Smith, a fighter for lost causes, would surely be dismayed by the inexcusable way we treat one another these days.
Whatever happened to “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself?” This holiday season, everyone seemed to be in a frenzied rush. Patience and civility were forgotten virtues, replaced by anger, meanness and negative energy.
The time has again arrived to make New Year’s resolutions. For years, i’ve pledged to exercise more, lose weight and eat better. Those have proven to be lost causes, as well.
So, with 2019 lurking around the corner like a stock market “correction,” I humbly resolve to be more patient, to treat people with respect and purge the nitwit part of my personality.
Let’s say I’m at Market Basket and an oblivious cellphone-obsessed shopper has parked his cart in the center of the aisle, blocking everyone’s way. I will simply smile and say “Excuse me, sir” instead of my usual “Hey clueless cretin, get outta the way.”
If I’m in a hurry, standing in the 12-items-or-fewer checkout, clutching one measly loaf of bread, and the man at the head of the line has at least 20 items, I shall keep my trap shut. I won’t even curse under my breath. When he inevitably is unable to figure out how to use his new chip debit card, further delaying everyone’s progress through the “quick” line, I will try to dissuade others from yelling and starting a riot.
How many times have you been sitting at a stoplight when the light turns green but the motorist in front just sits there, looking down at his/her phone? The old me would have leaned on the horn and spewed expletives. Even if we’re sitting there through several light changes, I vow to remain calm. Other impatient drivers might revolt, but not the new, kinder, gentler Bill. Heck, I might even wave other motorists through instead of cutting them off, though I run the risk of those behind me slamming into the back of my car, incredulous that some fool actually let someone else go first.
What else gets my goat? OK, I’m at a concert and Sam Smith, Adele, Josh Groban or some other singer with a beautiful voice is performing but all I can hear are the people next to me screeching the lyrics at the top of their lungs. I will refrain from barking “I didn’t pay 100 bucks a ticket to listen to your bleating. Shut the (expletive) up!” And, if everyone in front of me is holding their cellphones above their heads, taking video they’ll never watch, blocking my view and that of everybody behind them, I shall remain cool, calm and collected.
When the Commuter Rail train is late again because of signal issues, ice, or piping plovers resting on the tracks, I will not go off the rails and let my temper get the best of me.
I make light of the situation, but in all seriousness every one of us should resolve to make America great again through kindness and civility. People blame President Trump for enabling such crass, contemptible behavior. There might be some truth to that, but the fact is it’s been percolating long before No. 45 moved into the White House. Let’s stop blaming the government. Let’s stop pointing the finger at other races and ethnicities. If we are going to come together as one United States, it’s up to each of us to make it happen.
Resolving to diet, get fit and eat healthier is admirable. But treating one another with dignity and reverence would carry a lot more weight in the long run. Either I’m dead right, or I’m crazy. Let’s hope it’s not another lost cause.