What happened to respect?

While walking through the halls of Skyline’s campus, have you noticed that people don’t often say “excuse me” when they bump shoulders with other students? Or, when in an attempt to be polite and hold a classroom door open for a passing student, said student simply walks through without a nod of thanks or simply chooses not even to make eye-contact? Perhaps it is too naïve and/or arrogant to expect such acts of respect to be greeted with a word of gratitude. The really amazing moment is when you realize that the people around you are capable of being polite, grateful and respectful but they simply choose not to do so with you.

Here is a situation for you: You’re shopping, for groceries or clothes or what have you, and you get to the front of the line. You hand over what you wish to buy and greet the employee with a smile and a genuine “Hello,” and the employee doesn’t even make eye-contact with you. They ring you up for your purchase, hand you your change and receipt, and you say “Thank you,” because you genuinely mean it. The employee looks passed you, without saying a word, and warmly greets the next customer with the energy and ease of an old friendship. Did you do something wrong? Do you not look worthy of equal respect when you were so willing to give it to someone working in the service industry? Is it even worth attempting anymore?

If this was an isolated incident, one time out of 100, it could be chalked up to a minor issue and we could all move on without losing any sleep over the subject. But this is obviously not the case and, chances are, this situation will only continue to get worse. Do we decide to maintain our own self-respect by not dolling it out to those who do not believe in reciprocity? Or, do we continue to wage a Sisyphean war by continuing to show respect to those who will never show it in return?

The one saving grace of this situation, the proverbial diamond in the rough, comes when we see looks of surprise and shock from those on the receiving end of such respectful acts. It is somewhat surprising, in a sad way, watching someone’s face light up when you thank them for helping you or when you follow up a request by saying “please.” When did respect go out of practice, and who decided that it was polite to ignore it when it is shown from a complete stranger? Oh how far we have fallen as a society and a people when such small acts of kindness are overlooked and ignored.