JIM CREES: What happened to respect, common courtesy?

As I write this column, I wonder if I’m not projecting my age … my seemingly far too rapidly progressing age!

I don’t think so. Honestly.

Still, it would appear I’ve been thrust, however unwillingly, into the occasional role of “local curmudgeon.”

Recently, I was talking with a work partner about social mores, or the lack thereof.

I found myself speaking in the style of “When I was a kid …” That type of talk can be mildly disappointing. I clearly remember how annoying that style of conversation could be when I was on the receiving end of the same.

Nevertheless, our conversation focused on, or at least started out with a discussion of funerals. I mentioned to her that I’d seen a car cut into a funeral procession and thought it was exceptionally rude.

Astonishingly inconsiderate.

The procession, led by a police car and with a hearse displaying the appropriate purple flashing lights, was heading south on State Street in Big Rapids. At Woodward, a car popped off the sidestreet and pulled into traffic smack between two of the processional vehicles before zipping casually into the adjoining lane and making its way to …wherever.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury!

1) I’m pretty sure that’s against the law.

2) It’s just plain bad-mannered and discourteous.

Relaying this story, I noted I remember how things were different as I was growing up – even in Detroit.

I still remember the days when it was common courtesy to stop what you were doing when a funeral procession drove by. We were taught, (more often than not by example), that if you were walking down the street and a funeral procession passed, you stopped, removed your head covering, and waited until the procession had gone by before continuing on your way.

I even remember business people at a butcher shop in which I worked on Whittier Avenue stop what they were doing even though they were inside the store, and out of sight.

It’s just what you did.

I once asked why and the response I got from my dad was pretty enlightening.

He told me that even if you didn’t know the late departed passing by in the hearse, by stopping and giving them a moment of respectful silence you were actually recognizing they once existed and were important to someone.

He said that by offering this moment of silent salute, you were showing the world that this person – whoever they were, and whether you knew them or not – was worthy of your recognition and respect.

They were once one of us.

And now they no longer are so.

It was that simple.

As a driver, you pulled over and stopped when a funeral drove your way.

As a pedestrian, you stood for a moment of silence.

I lived quite close to St. Matthew’s Church in Detroit. I delivered the Detroit News to rectory on Whittier and the convent on Audubon Street. There were a lot of funerals passing by in our neighborhood. I had a lot of opportunity to stop and reflect on the importance of this or that person’s life, even though I rarely knew who was now laid low by the cold blast of death.

You just did it …because.

It was common decency and a respect drilled into us from an early age.

I hate to be the old guy at his desk pontificating, but there it is. I guess those kind of lessons don’t mean so much any more.

More’s the pity.

Stuff like, taking your hat off in church. I attended a church recently, and there were kids in the sanctuary wearing baseball caps.

Standing and placing a hand on your heart for the National Anthem. Sometimes I seem to be the only guy at an event who removes my hat and covers my heart without being told when the “Star Spangled Banner” is played.

And I’m the local bleeding-heart liberal!

I’m not the most hyper-religious, chauvinistically patriotic guy around. I admit it. Still, the social niceties are just stuff we learned and did.

Why? Because.

Sigh.

Am I really getting THAT old? Or are we as a society just slipping further and further away from a simple sense of common decency and respect.

Even in the responses I often get to one column or another I see a drift away from a certain civility. Look, I understand that I often get people fired up, but the fact that someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean either he or I am an idiot. It means we disagree. That’s all.

I was always taught that you could disagree and still be civil about it.

Oh well, I guess that’s just another lesson fallen by the wayside – not unlike giving respect to a passing funeral.

Old folks stuff … I guess.

Jim Crees is features editor for the Pioneer. Email him at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jim Crees

Jim is the editor in chief of the Pioneer, Herald Review and Lake County Star. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8360 or by e-mail at jcrees@pioneergroup.com.

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