Over the past month, the Barometer noted two articles that presented a stunning contrast. The first, by Bob Greene, in the October 20-21, 2018 Wall Street Journal. Mr. Greene told a story that unfolded during a Sunday morning walk. An elderly couple pulled up at a medical complex, parking in a lot that had 100 parking spaces. When the couple got out of their car, they realized that they had parked over the white line on one side of their parking space. Rather than take up two spaces, the man got back into the car as his wife directed him on moving the car within both white lines. They then went into the medical building. Mr.Greene rightly observed that no one would have minded if they had not reparked. No one would have been affected or inconvenience by a single car taking up two spaces. Yet, they followed a small rule because they had in their minds the thought that you just don’t do those kind of things. It was a small but inspirational act of doing the right thing — a random act of courtesy.
In the New York Times, there was the story of the death of Professor Kurt Salzinger, a professor and scholar of behavioral psychology at Hofstra University. He was 89, a native of Austria who had fled the Nazis and come to the United States. Having survived the horror of the Nazis, Professor Salzinger was the victim of a random act of physical rudeness. While Professor and Mrs. Salinger were waiting on a subway platform to go to Macy’s Herald Square when hurried straphanger pushed them aside as he hurried to catch the southbound train to Brooklyn. The Salzingers were knocked to the ground, and Professor Salzinger suffered bleeding in his brain from being knocked to the ground. He subsequently died when he contracted pneumonia in the hospital as they struggled to save him. Someone in such a hurry that others’ lives did not matter rudely pushed aside two tender human beings and now one of them is no longer with us. A random act of brutality committed in the name of time pressures. What drives someone to be so unaffected by the lives of others? What has happened to common courtesy? The Barometer need not have graciousness from all, just common courtesy, the kind that would never take human life in the subway rush.
Two different stories with the common thread of courtesy — in one courtesy was inspirationally present, and in the other shockingly absent. One cannot help but wonder in which direction we are headed.