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Civility in these days of plague and pestilence


During the fall holidays of 2019, I made a prophetic comment to my friends regarding 2020. What was this prophetic phrase? "2020 will be a fascinating year." That comment was not meant to be positive or negative, just a deep feeling, deep in my soul. Never in my life could I have foreseen the historic disaster in COVID-19, the worst recession in many decades, and social unrest due to systematic racism in our society.

America's current stressful problems have created something that I think will exacerbate the other stress-generating issue we face: a lack of civility.

While civility in our current situation seems to be contradictory, it is needed more than ever. Everyone needs to constantly practice the formal politeness and courtesy that is the foundation of "civility." A moment of kindness, an offer of "hello" could mean the utmost to others you encounter.

We now wear masks. Why? It is a form of civility for those around you. The masks protect them from you, so you are showing that you care about your neighbor and society.

Walking down the street, please do not cast aside your eyes; please make eye contact and wish them a good morning, day, or evening.

At the pharmacy and grocery store, please say hello to the clerks. End the discussions and business at the counter with a, "Please stay safe," or, "Please keep yourself well."

Why did we become like this? We are afraid.

We are afraid of something we cannot see. We are afraid that our fellow humans will infect us. We are afraid for our jobs. We are afraid of people of a different color. We are afraid of losing ourselves in our own personal sorrow. We are afraid, as we teeter on edge of an abyss where we cannot see the bottom.

How do we learn to not be afraid? It is doing something for others. Wishing them a "good day" as they pass you on the sidewalk. Acknowledge each human in some way as we encounter them in our day-to-day business. Use civility as a shield and sword to keep us aware of our humanity in these dark times.

Why do I feel so strongly about this one issue? Because it pays out extended dividends with no or little cost to us.

Scott Pickford

San Luis Obispo

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