A Day in My Life–March 21, 2024: National Common Courtesy Day

Mar 21, 2024 | Day in the Life, Life Experiences, Memoirs, Remembrance, Uncategorized, Women's History, Writing | 9 comments

Today is National Common Courtesy Day. I don’t know why today is any different from yesterday or tomorrow.

Every day should be common courtesy day.

What is common courtesy, anyway?

I don’t know how it’s defined in the dictionary. I know how my mother defined it, though, so I’ll pass on Gert’s rules for common courtesy:

  1. Always say please and thank you.
  2. When you’re waiting in line, and there’s a person in front of you whom the customer service person overlooks (e.g., a child or a person of a different race, etc.), always point out, “He/she was here first.” Conversely, don’t let anyone cut in line if you were next. Gently remind him/her that you were next in line.
  3. Always return the grocery cart to the grocery store or to one of those grocery cart corrals.
  4. Always ask your classmates or neighbors if they’ve had enough to eat. If not, share some of what you have with them. Always let them know if you’re in need.
  5. Always call your parents. They may not be alive when you wake up tomorrow.
  6. Always show gratitude in small ways. Pick a dandelion and give it as a gift to someone who’s down and out. You’d be surprised how much a yellow weed flower can cheer someone up.
  7. Always put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket (they stink, after all).
  8. Always walk the dog or clean out the kitty litter.
  9. Never slam the door and blame it on your imaginary friend.
  10. Always speak your mind, especially to politicians.

(The photo below is the author and her mother, about a hundred years ago, on Savin Hill in Dorchester, Massachusetts. This location overlooks where the battle of Dorchester Heights took place during the Revolutionary War; however, the author and her mother were not present for that battle.)

It’s also common courtesy to hold the door open for the person who’s behind you and the person who’s coming out as you’re going in. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female; you’re a human being. You could make a difference in someone’s world by simply demonstrating your humanity.

I often think that if I break my mother’s rules, she will rise from the grave and come back to haunt me. I have many dreams about her–not so many about my father. Her silly rules, the cliches she used to say (“We’re going to hell in a hand basket,” or “Loose lips sink ships”), the crusty attitude she projected. But deep down inside, she was a caring, courteous person who’d not always been dealt a kind hand in life. She overcame many challenges by sheer willpower.

I guess she had the right to make the rules. It wasn’t a democracy in her house.

From my friend, Rod MacDonald, who lives in Florida and writes amazing songs.


  1. Shirley Harris-Slaughter

    Wanda, your mother sounds like mine. She was a complex woman but she had great faith and that stood out to us. From her Bible quotes and her examples we learned how to be courteous to others.

    Thanks for the tips.

    • Wanda Fischer

      Hi Shirley–Yes, indeed. My mother was strict but she also told me once (before school lunch programs were free for kids who met certain income guidelines), “If you see a kid at lunch who has no sandwich, share yours with him/her. There might not be any food for that kid when he/she gets home. You know there’s food here when you get home.” She tried to look like a tough woman, but underneath, she worried about kids who might have to deal with some of the problems she faced as a youngster with little to no money to bring in food. I now know all about her circumstances as a child. I wish I had known about that when I was growing up, but neither she nor my father (who grew up in the backwoods of Appalachia) wanted us to know about their difficult childhoods.

  2. Pat Garcia

    Hi, Wanda,
    I’m glad your mother made rules you could pass on to your children. She was determined to make the best out of what she was and what she had and did it.
    Take care and have a lovely day.
    Shalom shalom

    • Wanda Fischer

      Hi Pat–Yes, she did, and she was strict. She was very young when she got married (18) and had just turned 20 when she became a mother. When I was growing up, I had no idea of how difficult a childhood she had, and, of course, when I was a teenager, she and I fought all the time. Now I look back and realize she taught us well, through example. Of course, that doesn’t mean we were easy on her, either.

  3. Karl Morgan

    Wanda, common courtesy should be the norm. Our society has changed. Too many are totally self-indulged. They cannot even look someone in the eyes. We have lost a lot since I was young. I hope those traits return soon, although I am not holding my breath. The best we can do is to continue to do what we know is right. I may not be able to change the world, but I can stick the the morals I learned throughout my life.

    • Wanda Fischer

      Karl, today I went to have my eyes checked, and a man with a very frail wife was leaving behind me. Now, I’m 75 myself, but I stopped and waited to hold the door for them both as they were leaving. We have indeed lost a lot since we were young, but I’m trying to instill some of this in my grandchildren. Most days they “get” it. If we demonstrate it to them, I hope they will. You’re right: It’s about the morality we learned. I do speak out when I hear people crossing the line.

  4. john

    Hi Wanda. Your mother and mine must have known one another. At what point did women stop wearing babushkas and what purpose did they serve? I also remember women wearing doilies on their heads when going to Sunday mass…that stopped too.

    I admit that returning the shopping carts is one of my non-courtesies…can’t quite make the break.

    • Wanda Fischer

      Hi John–I think in the photo, my mother was wearing one because it was always windy in that place. I remember well the “doilies-on-the-head” phase. We sometimes just put a tissue on our head to go to church if we forgot our mantillas!

      My husband’s sister and her family still wear mantillas to church and still insist that the women/girls in the family cover their heads when going to church. My daughter, daughter-in-law and I are the only women who have shown up at family wedding without head coverings to this day. Doilies are available in the back of the church. We still don’t partake…

  5. Patty Perrin

    Hi, Wanda!

    The song resonated so strongly in my spirit. Thank you for sharing it. Love IS the common ground. Your mama’s list matches my mama’s list! Maybe it should be posted all over the internet for this next generation to see and learn from. I love that photo of you and your mom from (ahem!) 100 years ago. I laughed at your comment that you were not present for that long-ago war.



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