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Missing the Manners


Some people seem to be born proper. They know how to conduct themselves in any situation. They always say the most appropriate words with just the right balance of emotion and detachment. Their clothes are stylish and fresh, not outrageous. They are familiar with every piece of silverware placed just so at a formal dinner and know how and when to use it. They make their way through life with exquisite manners and admirable social elegance. That's some people. But not all of us.

Others of us get by well enough. We're rough around the edges some would say. Or perhaps expressing our uniqueness. Or just doing the best we can. We might fall back on "Mama never taught me that" even if she tried mightily up against our unwillingness to be trained. And it's always possible that we're just plain clumsy of tongue and limb with words that tumble out and feet that fumble around. We were missing the day manners were distributed because we were out playing ball with a stolen glove in a vacant lot named "No Trespassing." That's some people too.

But every last one of us with breath in our lungs and fastened to the earth by gravity will bump into an occasion or a season in which we leave whatever manners we may have in a box on a shelf somewhere. There are circumstances in which being proper gets us nowhere. Polite requests give way to impassioned pleas. Eloquent negotiating yields to gritty groveling. We - or someone we love or care about - need help, need justice, need relief, need to no longer need so deeply.

It's often said that beggars can't be choosers but there are times when we all but beg and from carefully selected targets. Public officials. Healthcare providers. Legal system representatives. Religious leaders. Educators and administrators. We seek whatever it is we're after from the person or organization with the power or resources to fulfill our demand or meet our need. Being timid will not serve us well. If we're going to beg, grovel, and plead, we might as well mean it. Even if we're missing the manners, we do well to consider not only how we plead but also from whom we beg.

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