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January 2016

Our behavior is the message we send about who we are

Outside the historic John B. Lindale House in Magnolia, Delaware, once the home to one of the last great peach barons in that state, stands a sign that Magnolia
reads: “This is Magnolia, the center of the universe around which the earth revolves.”  I could hear the outrage in the response of one of my dear, and funny, friends: "What? There can't be two centers of the universe, and I'm it! Who do I talk to about getting this sign corrected?"

She was being facetious, but there seems to be an outstanding number of people, given their behavior, who would argue Magnolia's claim.

One of them was in the bank drive-up lane today while I was there. Her loud carrying-on through the speaker, after the teller told her she had to come inside to complete a transaction, was an embarrassment for the tellers whom she degraded and an inconvenience for the half dozen drivers who chose the drive-up because it is quicker and more convenient. A bank manager was compelled to come out to her car and talk to her about the situation, while the rest of us waited ... and waited ... for her transaction to be completed.

It seemed this customer's motive was not just to have a problem fixed, but to make herself the center of attention. There was no sense of a "we" trying to correct a problem, but an "I" trying to prove she was right at the cost of embarrassing the "other" and inconveniencing everyone who was unlucky enough to come to the drive-through while she was there.

Thankfully, there are still people who realize that if we are to make a positive difference in the world, if we want to be people who reflect the extravagant love of God, then we need to remember that our behavior is the message we send to others about who we truly are.

Respect, civility, and simple courtesy are not weaknesses in character, but rather show a strength flowing from dignity and self-respect. When we begin to believe we are so important as to be the center of everyone else's universe, we fall short of the nobility that belongs to humanity.