Check It Out: Raise above the fray and be civil to each other

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Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at readingforfun@fvrl.org.

Are you as ready as I am for a return to civility? A little more grace and charm and a lot less acrimony and vitriol? I want to say that the lack of social niceties feels worse than ever before, but I know that as long as humans have walked this earth there have been contentious moments. Prehistoric man surely had his aggravations. For example, Caveman Thag probably didn’t react well upon discovering that he and his neighbor, Caveman Krok, had just speared the same mastodon. “Krok always violate personal space,” I imagine Mr. Thag grousing. And I think I can safely assume that the Pilgrims weren’t thankful all of the time. Just the Mayflower voyage itself (remember: 66 days across the Atlantic Ocean) likely caused more than one Pilgrim to say “Pray pardon me, but thy presence annoyeth me.” In other words, humans have always had issues with each other.

We can’t control the actions of others — especially politicians, celebrities and media — but we can control what we say and do. And we can appreciate those around us who demonstrate civility and humility. Case in point. When my husband and I attended the National Air Races in Nevada last month, we had the good fortune of sitting behind two air race officials who were there to monitor the race course and to report any course rule violations. While in conversation with them, we learned that both men were also pilots and that one of them had served as a combat pilot during the Vietnam War. As it happily turned out for us, not only were they a fount of information regarding the races, they truly didn’t mind being peppered with questions, all the while fulfilling a crucial function to the races. So, excellent event, excellent company — best weekend ever.

It wasn’t until we returned home and searched one of the official’s names on the internet that we realized the true extent of the aviation expertise serendipitously located next to our seats. Not only had the combat pilot flown during the Vietnam War, he had received multiple military decorations for his service, and had retired as a brigadier general in the Air Force. Yeah, WOW. The point I want to make is this: humility and grace are too often dismissed in our “it’s all about me” culture. Our air race host — and that’s honestly how I think of him now — was generous with his time, his knowledge, and completely unassuming in his manner. I firmly believe that these are qualities worthy of our respect during these especially fractious times.

On that note, the following is a selection of titles designed to guide and lift us above the fray, so to speak. May we all experience graciousness and kindness in our lives.

• “Finding the Lost Art of Empathy: Connecting Human to Human in a Disconnected World,” by Tracy Wilde.

• “Gracious: A Practical Primer on Charm, Tact, and Unsinkable Strength,” by Kelly Williams Brown.

• “How Much Is Too Much?: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children — From Toddlers to Teens — In an Age of Overindulgence,” by Jean Illsley Clarke.

• “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling,” by Edgar H. Schein.

• “Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic,” by Mark Coleman.

• “Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace,” by Christine Lynne Porath.

• “The Road to Character,” by David Brooks.