Civility

I Gotta Give Thanks

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I had to go to the MVA yesterday. Yes, the dreaded Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland. It might be the DMV where you live or some other innocuous sounding jumble of letters, but it means the same thing: a little death. My vehicle registration had expired on June 1, and yesterday was June 13, but it had taken me that long to track down all the flags and little things to tidy up before I could renew, to the tune of several hundred dollars. I thought it was all done, and I thought I’d be in and out of there.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 5.42.04 PMI arrived to find that EZPass, the nefarious organization which runs a local crime syndicate called “Tollway” had more outstanding fines for me to pay than their enforcer had told me on the phone last week. I had been told that the $50 I paid last week would get me in the clear, but their mob muscle at the MVA detailed another $650 or so I’d have to pay before I could ever drive legally again on Maryland turf. I posted the Gif here of a collapsing baby on Facebook from a place of inner pain and hopeless I thought could only be visualized by the falling innocence and dejection of an infant who would surely also flop right off the couch and land on their face. #carpetburn Really, this was all too much to take in… so much worse than their only having Diet Pepsi available as the low calorie soda option in the vending machine.

I was upset. I was stunned. I did not have $650 to clear my good name and my Nissan’s registration. Of course, I could have yelled and stamped my feet. I really, really, really wanted to yell and stamp my feet and basically wig the fruit right out of my grits and bacon. But let’s be real for a minute… everything and I mean everything my faith is supposed to be about is about not doing that kind of thing. I am supposed to be forgiving, patient, kind, joyful in distress and expectant of good things, among other things, all of which sound great in sermons and hymns and are really difficult at the MVA. I don’t know what exactly the woman with EZPAss saw in my face, the hopelessness, the patience, or just a face not screaming obscenities at her from a mess of my own making, but she next says these amazing and unexpected words: Have you ever had a one-time waiver? 

there-can-be-only-one-quote-2A one-time waiver? I’ve suddenly got that feeling like Katniss when the salve dropped in on a chiming parachute to heal Pita: hope.

I have not had this thing, tell me more. She goes on to detail that she has the power to give me this waiver and bids me wait a moment while she checks and receives instructions from a small robot overlord on her desk she reverently called “My System.” She smiles and explains that all my many $50+ fines adding up to almost $650 can all be magically changed to $3 fines, but only once in my life. There can be only one. I had not had this done for me ever, so she could do it now, and all my fines and fees and great debt were shrunk to a total of $70.

I like to rant about the MVA. It’s fun to rant on the MVA. But once I cleared things with EZPass, I was out of there in barely more than thirty minutes updating the address on my license and renewing my registration. So as much as ranting might be fun and even funny, I have to be grateful. I have to be thankful. I’m so thankful that EZPass is housed at the MVA and I didn’t have to travel across the state to find them. And I’m glad I didn’t go nuts, because I’m supposed to be nice. I’m grateful for the ease with which things were settled, and for keeping my fruit together. Amen.

AMDG, Todd

October 31, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 31 ~ A dream: We can speak a world of bridges into existence. Every day. #civility

I have been humbled and excited to make a month’s journey thinking about civility. It’s been a great ride, intellectually and relationally, as we interacted on Twitter, Facebook and here! Thank you! Let’s live the dream! Let’s speak a world of bridges into reality where the spaces between us afford some beautiful views and vistas where only disconnect had been seen before!

October 30, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 30 ~ Civility knows when to keep quiet and just let something go. #civility

This is a higher level skill… some people think it’s a cool skill to have snappy comebacks and to be able to return insult for insult, but keeping quiet? That’s one that takes skill and experience.

And this may not even be about an insult, but simply letting something go… when someone makes a mistake or misspeaks… you don’t always have to correct them. They’ll probably realize in a little while they made a mistake. Or maybe it’s someone who feels they need to correct you, even when you know you’re right. Or the blame game? Or “getting the last word in?” Letting these things go without a fight can be tough, and surprisingly rewarding.

It’s most rewarding because it makes room for everyone’s blood pressure to drop and tensions to lessen. It creates a less competitive, hectic space.

October 28 and 29, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 29 ~ Civility is marked by humility, patience and candor. #civility

Oct. 28 ~ Civility offers the needed apology. #civility

I knew eventually I’d hit a day when it slipped past me to get a saying on civility posted before falling into an exhausted sleep, and that was yesterday! I’m sorry.

That means today is a double day! And civility does offer the needed apology. Incivility doesn’t apologize because the apology is so easily stopped by anger, pride and the desire to be “right” or to be “dominant.”

It’s that base of humility, patience and candor that allows civility to function. On such a solid footing one’s own mistakes are clearly seen, reflected on and owned. Owning mistakes and offering apologies unlocks new vistas of discourse.

October 27, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 27 ~ “If speaking is silver then listening is gold.” Turkish Proverb #civility

Been saving this little dandy for that day when nothing comes to me… and that day was today! Woot for cool old sayings attributed to far away places! And it fits the civility discussion so well!

October 26, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 26 ~ Civility includes mastery of the basic courtesies: please, thank you, you’re welcome. #civility

Indeed, simple courtesies are the building blocks of civil discourse. These small habits engender a sense of dignity to a conversation and display an intrinsic respect for the other participants.

Want to build personal credibility? Be thankful and gracious when you speak to people. Even in moments of disagreement being courteous allows the discourse solid traction to keep moving forward.

Somewhere along the way someone started acting like “being right” completely overshadowed “acting right” or “speaking right.” The idea caught on, and a win at all costs attitude developed in our manner of discourse and disagreement that leaves no room for courtesies. It looks and acts something like this: “If I am right, then you are wrong, and therefore you are not deserving of my courtesies, and I am not obligated to be courteous, especially if my good manners might steal some of the impact of my superior ideas.” Sound like anyone on the radio you’ve heard recently? I’ve heard that attitude spoken on both sides of the aisle, right and left!

A Presbyterian friend of mine once made a self-deprecating joke about his denomination’s tendency to be slow to adopt changes and fast to assemble committees for long and multiple meetings, he said, “We Presbyterians are the ones who can miss an opportunity to do right because we’re so focussed on doing it right. I get what he’s saying, and I can chuckle with him at the joke, but I also have to give some grudging respect to the attitude of doing things well.

October 25, 2012 Redux in 2016

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Oct. 25 ~ Civility is your body language as well as your words. #civility

Shaken fists, scowling, narrowed eyes, pointing fingers… all these work to lower the civility of our discourse. We can often be forgiven the more subtle things like folded arms and blank stares, but the very aggressive stuff needs to be curbed if we want to raise the level of our civility.

Some people think civility is the same as “tact,” or worse, it’s “not saying” what needs to be said. Civility is not only saying what needs to be said and as it needs to be said, but also includes the total package of our presentation. Uncivil body language can end our discourse as fast as name calling or shrill yelling.