All sorts of folk drop by our local bakery. It may be for a chat, a quiet read over a cappuchino, escape from the house, a couple of tourists to check it out or whatever. I am not immune to any of the above and I like to engage with others in the congenial surround of the bakery and its denizens.
Not so long ago, while enjoying a cup of tea and reading a magazine article about Gandhi, I noticed a middle aged couple drifting around and looking for somewhere to sit. I caught her eye and nodded to my table and the two vacant chairs that had been drawn up to it. They sat down, said they were visiting from Montreal, and we exchanged some opening pleasantries before the man, Ronald, noticed Gandhi’s picture on the front cover of the magazine.
Nodding towards it, he said, “That man had a special way of getting things done.” “Do you think anyone today would even try Gandhi’s method?” I asked. “I really doubt it,” he said, “Incivility has become too endemic and almost every level of society has become infested.”
“I’m a psychologist,” the wife, Linda, said, “and the psychological and behavioural climate in our culture has implications for our mental, physical and relationship health and well-being.” Ronald, a recently retired university teacher, shared with me how he had often spoken to students about filtering their thoughts and behaviour through what he called the 3 Cs: Civility, Compassion, and the Common Good.
“Without a commitment to these, it’s hard to imagine a hopeful future for any of us,” he said. “What’s your read of it?” he asked me. I commented that friends in the USA had told me that people over there are stressed out by the political climate like never before, and they are feeling very discouraged. “But human nature is basically healthy,” I said. “And its innate goodness, warmth and generosity will win out. And add to that the grace of God.”
The conversation wasn’t all dark and gloomy. We laughed a lot as they shared some of their positive and hilarious experiences of traveling through Ireland: the helpfulness they experienced from total strangers; the humourous banter from taxi drivers; the way Linda was often called “Love” (with a smile) by the check-out ladies, and the occasional man, in the stores and shops. There is hope, I thought. The Golden Rule is still alive and well!
I was just about home when I remembered that I’d forgotten to purchase some bread at the bakery!