“What are the magic words?”

My mom and dad made sure that I understood the importance of using “please” and “thank you” in my earliest of conversations. I should shake hands with those I met, wait for my elders to sit before I did so, and always offer to help when we visited friends in their home. I should think about what I was going to say before I said it (although I never did so well with that one) and think through how something may affect another before I acted (I was better at this one).

My parents taught, from the time I could interact with others, that there are many things we should do out of “common courtesy.” In my growing up years, there were words that you would never hear spoken and topics of conversation that we would not even think of entertaining. If I neglected to say “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, sir,” or show proper respect to my elders in any way, all would not be well for me with my dad! It was common courtesy to behave in a civilized, kind, and respectful manner.

As the years have passed, it has become uncomfortably evident that the courtesies once automatically extended in society are disappearing in many circles. In very deed, common courtesy is no longer so common.

Here are some questions for us to answer for ourselves:

  • Do we extend the same courtesy to our family members as to those with whom we work, or to those with whom we serve in our church callings?
  • Are we as courteous behind the wheel of a car as we would be to one entering the church building, or an office where we would interact?
  • In the halls of our schools, is our behavior the same as when we are in the halls of our church?
  • Are the courtesies we extend on a daily basis the kind that we would offer when we enter the temple?
  • Are we just as courteous these days as we used to be? More so? Less so?
  • Just what does courtesy mean these days?
  • Is our fast-paced, Internet world causing a lack of personal connection that allows many members of society to practice the common courtesies expected as we learn to work, learn, and live together?
Good manners (another way of saying common courtesy) show others that we respect their feelings, their rights, and their opinions. It is a way of growing in self-mastery. It is a simple way of being more like our Savior, who is the supreme exemplar of benevolence.

Extending ourselves to offer kindness and thoughtfulness is a way to strengthen relationships — and fortify ourselves. Better than vitamins, perhaps, in building the kind of muscle that may not show on the outside but definitely helps us deliver with a stronger and brighter being!

One of the things I love about my husband is his consistent ability to show small kindnesses. Among his many talents, none is grander to me than his respect for me and others. His little acts of service (not really little at all) brighten the world. His common courtesy is an indication of his strength of character.

I delight in my son jumping ahead to open the door for me, or taking heavy items out of my arms to carry for me, his older sister, or other females. Likewise, it does my heart good to see one of the girls say a quick and heartfelt, “Thank you,” to a male who steps to the table, extending courtesies that say, “Let me be of service.”

These little daily rituals help build us to be the good Samaritans as we travel the road of life. We might just be amazed at how such a simple thing can bring a bit of healing to a fellow traveler.

It is a tough world sometimes. Sweet blessings of “the old days” with the old ways seem to be diminishing as quickly as beaches erode in a storm. To keep a beachhead more safe and strong, precautions are put into place and simple reinforcements implemented toward building a better foundation.

Likewise, in eroding society, we strengthen ourselves as well as our own little portion of the world when we stake our reputations — our character, our integrity — on certain simple principles. Showing civility to our fellow beings, so many of them caught up in personal storms and fighting heavy head winds, is a beautiful thing.

Courtesy? I am hoping it makes a big comeback, growing in popularity until it is as common as the “common cold”!