Cultivating civility and respect in an impatient and thoughtless world

Monica Pearson poses for a portrait on set of her new AJC show The Monica Pearson Show" on Dec. 15, 2023. Pearson brings her five decades of experience to this new venture with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Monica Pearson poses for a portrait on set of her new AJC show The Monica Pearson Show" on Dec. 15, 2023. Pearson brings her five decades of experience to this new venture with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Jason Getz /

“April showers bring May flowers” was a favorite saying of my mother’s as she planted her vegetable and flower gardens each year. She had a green thumb; something I did not inherit. I don’t garden.

However, there are a lot of gardeners who love to dig in the dirt to see what it yields. But it was a TV viewer who shared with me a different kind of garden that she felt needed to be planted in each of our minds to grow and yield improved relationships. This garden produced food for thought. Different versions of this garden are on the internet with no attribution as to who originally produced this garden of ideas.

In this garden, the peas (Ps) planted stood for patience, politeness, preparation and perseverance. Mother used to say patience is a virtue, but there seems to be little patience anymore, especially on the expressway. Aggressive driving translates to tailgating, abruptly changing lanes, speeding, honking of horns and saluting other drivers with one finger. Sometimes the impatience involves a gun and ends in tragedy.

That impatience even finds its way into lines at fast food restaurants. Recently, while waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant drive-through, a man three cars behind me started blowing his horn because the line wasn’t moving fast enough. Then he started shouting, “Some people have to get to work.” Then he pulled out of the line at a high rate of speed, yelling as he drove by the rest of us.

Politeness is passé for many. I’m always surprised when someone holds an open door for me; when someone greets me with a smile and says “please” and “thank you,” or “how can I help you?” or even “excuse me.” I make sure I respond in kind and often have said to a young person who is polite how much their mannerly conduct means to me.

A Monica Moment column debuts.

Credit: AJC file

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Credit: AJC file

Another item planted in our new type of garden is squash. We should squash gossip, criticism, envy and hatred. My mother’s rule about gossip was a simple one, if you can’t go to the person the gossip is about and ask if it is true, then don’t pass it on.

When it comes to squashing criticism, we need to ask ourselves, is it constructive or destructive criticism? Destructive criticism usually attacks the person, rather than the idea. It tears down, rather than builds up. Constructive criticism looks at an idea, points out the concerns and then offers a better way of approaching the issue or problem. Constructive criticism builds up, rather than tears down. You handle the concern in a respectful way; the way you would want to be treated.

To squash hatred, we need to learn to be civil; learn how other people think to better understand them. We need to listen with our ears and not with a mindset of “hurry up, so I can tell you what I think.”

Somewhere along the way, we, as a society, have become increasingly rude and thoughtless. My mother also said, “Empty cans make the most noise.” Could that be the reason civility is disappearing: empty ideas, lots of noise and little substance and understanding?

Civility means asking respectful questions, free of judgement and bias, in order to understand. Civility means being engaged and willing to learn and compromise. It is all about respect.

And that leads me to the next planted thought. It is about lettuce ... let us be unselfish, let us be truthful and let us love one another.

How often have we heard the phrase, “to whom much is given, much is required.” Not one of us got to where we are without someone else’s time, talent, or treasure. We are expected to pass it on. What are you doing to help others? What organizations do you volunteer for on a regular basis? How do you give back to the community where you worship, work or live?

It is through volunteerism that we learn how other people and cultures live and cope. We learn empathy. We get to know the real people versus the stereotype we’ve embraced. We still may not agree on issues and solutions, but it will be based on fact and not fiction or feelings. Let us see the similarities in each other and the good in each other. That can only happen when we get to know one another by sharing neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, churches and life.

Let us also love one another and let us respect one another.

The garden also has turnips, which translates to turn up with a friendly smile.

Maybe it’s time we all plant these thoughts to see what they yield in our everyday lives and our relationships with others. As my mother always said, “you reap what you sow.”