Picture this: A beautiful sunny Saturday morning. A trip to the local farmers’ market. The community band strikes up the national anthem. That’s when I felt the rant beginning.
Although it was the start of the market, there was already a large crowd of people strolling past the stalls. To my surprise and shock, as the band began to play O Canada, at least a third of the people continued walking and talking.
"Whoa," I thought, "show some respect."
Here’s what I observed. Yes, about two thirds of the people stopped and stood silently or sang along. Well done. But the other people seemed oblivious to the fact that their national anthem was being played. This wasn’t a generational thing. People of all ages were merrily going about their business.
I have a theory about that.
It’s not that O Canada is an unrecognizable piece of music. You can name that tune in three notes or less. I’m guessing that, for some of those people, they just weren’t paying attention. We’ve become so busy in our lives that we are focused on the next thing to do and so we miss what is happening in the moment. Some of the talkers and walkers weren’t being consciously disrespectful. They just were not aware of their behaviour.
More importantly, though, I think our standard for respect has fallen, not just for O Canada, but for how we treat each other and the planet. When I was a kid and you went to the movies, the first thing that happened was they played God Save the Queen. And yes, we stood up in the theatre, even when our parents weren’t there. It was the respectful thing to do.
Now it’s a challenge to get people to turn off their cellphones, not only in the theatre, but pretty much anywhere they go.
Some might say it’s not that big a deal, but I disagree. When we let the little things slide, it’s not long before the big things start to follow.
Respect has an etiquette. For the playing of a national anthem it involves standing up, taking your hat off, being quiet and singing along if you are so inclined. At other times it involves using polite manners like saying please and thank you, or making eye contact or treating others with dignity. It’s picking up after yourself, allowing others to go first, thinking a little more we and a little less me.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the market experience was seeing how many parents and grandparents missed the opportunity to model to the kids what respectful behaviour looks like. It was an unused teachable moment. We either learn to be respectful or how not to be.
If you ask, most people think rudeness is a serious and growing problem. Ironically, those same people believe that they themselves are not rude. Hmmm, the math on that just doesn’t add up.
Perhaps it’s time for us all to slow down and raise our own standards. If we want respect – and who doesn’t? – then we need to start giving it with glowing hearts in the simplest of ways.
Respectfully, that’s the end of my rant.
How do you show respect?