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Wearily raising my hand to my car’s rear view mirror, I wave. After a frenzied day, I merge, passing the third traffic obstruction on my way home.

I am sure that the driver thought nothing of letting me in ahead of him. But I did.

Publicity promoting the pay it forward movement is well-earned.

But, another way to foster kindness and good will is common courtesy.

It happens so quickly, its value can be overlooked.

Waiting in a grocery store lineup, I noticed the young man behind me restlessly bouncing from foot to foot. Attired in construction boots and dusty clothing, he held only a large carton of chocolate milk and a supermarket made sandwich. I waved him ahead.

Placing his items on the belt, he leaned slightly towards me and breathed the words, “thanks so much for this, forgot my lunch”.

While his shortened lunch break may have been lengthened by a mere few minutes, his frenzied stance had lessened.


Actions like these build social fabric threads into our crowded communities. That slight nod to another while out walking, or that held door for another person are small simple actions of common courtesy. Yet, these valuable actions generate good will. Inspiring good will through courtesy is a mark of a civil society, particularly in our crowded urban centres, where we mostly meet strangers in our everyday life. As an attribute of hospitality, courtesy welcomes those yet unknown into our circle of those we care about, if only for the briefest of moments. By offering courtesy as a civil custom of respect, we create reciprocity where we all experience it with thanks and offer it with grace.


Bus Stop Chairs

This bus stop photo captures a unique example of kind courtesy.

Frequently placed at non-major intersections or less trafficked bus routes, these chairs are provided by citizens.

The chair, while neither stylish or cozy, offers respite where there are no bus shelters.

Once a rarity, these chairs saturate my city.




Simple courtesy customs reinforce and nurture the value our society places on caring for one another.

These thin but tenacious threads of common care form a social bond in even an urban community.

Through tracking the daily instances of giving or receiving a common courtesy, one experiences the etymology of courtesy. Courtesy derives from the word ‘court’, as a display of manners befitting those in the royal court.

Common courtesy welcomes and rewards our collective will to maintain a civil society, for we are all worthy of the royal treatment of common courtesy.

Related : World Kindness Day