Between drop offs and pick ups, volunteering, and just generally mucking about, I’m at my kids’ school a lot. Each time I watch as students rush through doors with no regard whatsoever as to whether it might slam in the face of the person behind them. I don’t fault them–they’re kids, I’m glad to see them hurling themselves head first into life–but during the times I’m responsible for the care of these magical creatures, I’ve been testing my newest principle.
It goes a little something like this: If everyone holds the door for the person behind them, we all take on just a little bit of responsibility for the well-being of someone else.
It’s pretty simple right? By holding the door until the person behind you takes over, you’re making sure that person doesn’t get a nose full of glass. It’s courtesy 101.
That’s the literal principle. It works just as well metaphorically.
When I was a young and relatively penniless student in NYC, I frequented the many museums which suggest a donation in lieu of charging an admission fee. It was common knowledge that you could roam the Metropolitan Museum of Art like the kids in Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler for next to nothing. A quarter in the pot would do. It meant I could skip through the statuary and meander by the Monets and still afford a pot of Ramen Noodles at the end of the day.
Later, when my not-yet husband and I were not quite penniless but still relatively dollar-less, we started to donate a little bit more, a few dollars here and there. A fiver each.
Now, as adults with children of our own, we’re able to afford the full suggested donation. We don’t have to, we could still walk like Egyptians through the sarcophagi for free, but we do. Because we can afford it. And because for every time we fork over the suggested donation, it means the next young woman who is contemplating Ramen noodles vs. a night at the museum can do both.
We’re holding the door open.
My husband and I both benefitted greatly from the social stepping-stones in our lives: Free public education, Pell Grants and student loans, mortgage credits, tax credits, public transportation, a rent subsidized apartment in Brooklyn. Those stepping-stones got us to where we are now. And now? Now it’s our turn to hold the door open for the next group to come along and take advantage of those opportunities.
Ah, but Dina! I can hear some of you saying. Haven’t you ever held the door and watched people march right through without even saying thank you?? Haven’t you ever gotten stuck holding the door because people stroll right through without a second thought, totally taking advantage of you standing there like a chump?
Sure. And sometimes I even flip them off behind their backs. Sometimes I like to hiss at them. I may even passive aggressively mutter “You’re Welcome!” at their backs. But, in all my forty-some odd years, I’ve never let the door slam in someone’s face. At the end of the day, it’s not worth it just to prove a point.
Sometimes you might get stuck holding the door longer than you think is fair. You pay the suggested donation while someone else who could easily afford it waltzes by the Water Lilies after dropping a buck in the bin. But most of the time–this is important–most of the time the reason you feel like you are stuck holding the door is because it takes some folks a lot longer to get there. Maybe they tripped on the way. Maybe they need help catching up. Maybe they can’t hold the door themselves or for the person behind them.
The young, the poor, the ones just starting out. The ones who need a little help getting there and the ones who need help holding it open. The ones who need a little more time. The ones who need a lot more.
There are always going to be people who take advantage of an open door. There are always going to be folks who feel entitled to walk on through without assuming their little share of social responsibility. But most of the time you release the door to a thank you and the person behind takes over.
You hold the door because someone held it open for you once upon a time. You hold the door because by assuming a little responsibility for the person coming up behind you is how societies function at their best. You hold doors because it’s the right thing to do.
When we pay our fair share–even if that share is more because there is more to begin with–we’re holding a door.
When we invest–in education, in health, in infrastructure for all–we’re holding a door.
So hold the door. Hold it for the young woman who can go home and eat her Ramen Noodles after a day contemplating Van Gogh. Hold it for the young guy who need a little longer catching you up. Hold it for all the people who are coming up behind you, who deserve, just as much as you, whatever is on the other side. Whether it’s freedom or equality, opportunity or just the sky outside.
Hold the door.
Because some day, you’ll appreciate someone holding it for you once again.
19 Comments Add yours
It is the simple stuff which resonates so much.
It’s true. And I’m always stupidly thankful when someone does something for me. I imagine most people feel the same way.
Yep, life shouldn’t be a competition… I started taking pictures of everyone who cut in line before me while I was traveling and was going to do a post on it (I still might). It aggravated me to wait and have someone else move up in line, but once I started taking pictures and joking with my wife about the boldness of some people, I got joy from their ability to break the rules without guilt. It all came down to my attitude about the people, moving the focus off me and my extra 30 seconds of waiting in line and making a joke out of it lowered my blood pressure about 50 points.
Thanks for the reminder.
With the exception of the Brits, who are exceptional liner-uppers (An Englishman will form an orderly queue of one is very true), the Europeans generally suck at lining up. It’s just not their thing. Once you get over the fact that it’s not their thing, like after say….oh, six or seven years of living here, it becomes much less frustrating. And you are right–taking the focus off of yourself, the feeling that they were intentionally doing something to slight YOU rather than something that was just to benefit THEM, makes everything seem much more tolerable.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Reblogged this on buildingapoem and commented:
I don’t have a clue what this could possibly have to do with poetry, but it is a nice piece of writing about an important little piece of life. Thank you, Dina!
Thank you! (Courtesy sort of rhymes with poetry…in case that helps make your case).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Excellent attitude about life – couldn’t agree more. And YAY for “Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!” It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve been meaning to re-read it for awhile now. I know I have at least one copy on my shelf at home…
I patiently waited (not really) until my oldest was in 5th grade and I excitedly gave him a copy. MY fifth grade teacher read it to me, and I can still remember how much I enjoyed it–and her voice–. He loved it too. A word of advice–I re-read A Wrinkle in Time recently and I remember it being much better as a kid. Sometimes books have a time and a place. Often they hold up if you remove them from that time and place, but sometimes not!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’ve got a ton of YA and children’s books on my shelf that I go back to regularly – all of Beverly Cleary, most of Madeleine L’Engle, and of course A.A. Milne…
Well done. You hit the nail on the head again, Dina.
I’m looking at alternate careers as a carpenter if this writing thing doesn’t work out.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Simple goodness. Probably included in the the quick-start guide, “how to be a human being”. Keep them coming Dina – always a pleasure to read, contemplate, reflect.
Exactly. And thank you.
So well put Dina.
Reblogged this on Wine and Cheese (Doodles) and commented:
It is up to us to hold the door for those who can’t, or for those who need a little bit more time getting there to hold it open themselves.
I so agree with you, and I especially love this section of your post: ” I may even passive aggressively mutter “You’re Welcome!” at their backs. But, in all my forty-some odd years, I’ve never let the door slam in someone’s face. At the end of the day, it’s not worth it just to prove a point.” Thank you for making a great point while avoiding the soapbox and keeping it real.
I try. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I’m worse than the guy on the tallest soap box there is. But I feel strongly about this–it’s up to us to look out for one another, and if we all do it, things will work out beautifully.
This is an exquisitely elegant illustration of how to be with one another. Common courtesy and consideration.
I like it too, how you allow for the walkers’ through who take advantage. AT least, in some cases it’s a deliberate working of the system. But as you say, there are others who are preoccupied, or disabled in some way.
Brilliant, truly brilliant.