You can tell a lot about a person by watching how they treat others, especially those who are so-called “below” them. Is he or she rude to the waitress? Do they ignore the person cleaning their table, or leave trash out for others to pick up? Is their manner brusque, dismissive, or condescending?
A friend of mine sent me an article about refugees who held lofty positions (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.) in their home countries, but can only find work as hotel maids or stock boys here. They spoke of the lack of respect they receive, and it made me consider how we treat the low-wage workers in our midst. Do you smile or make eye contact with the cashier at the supermarket? When a bus boy refills your iced tea or brings you a new napkin, do you thank him? Do you put your tray up, or leave your garbage out for others to deal with?
Civility isn’t simply about being well-mannered and exhibiting charm school etiquette at fancy dinner parties. It’s also about consistency. If you’re only civil and polite to those whom you want to impress, you’re missing the point. Spread the kindness!