What Polite Gesture Never Fails to Impress You?
Holding doors, offering a seat on the bus, writing thank-you cards by hand—these small courtesies add grace notes to every day. Here, readers share the thoughtful acts that resonate most with them.
Navigating through heavy traffic is never pleasant. So little acts of kindness make a difference. In particular, I love it when someone gives me the “thanks” wave for letting him merge in front of me. Being acknowledged helps remind me that other cars are not just barriers in my path. We’re all just people trying to get somewhere.
Long Beach, California
A lot of people say, “What?” or “Huh?” when they fail to hear or understand you. I appreciate it when someone says, “Pardon?” or “Excuse me?” instead. These words are kinder and less terse, which makes me feel more comfortable repeating myself.
New York, New York
Bringing food to someone experiencing a stressful life situation, like a new baby or a loved one’s illness, is always welcome. While a home-cooked meal is especially comforting, you can also grab takeout from a local restaurant. That generosity will mean just as much.
After using the sink in a public restroom, a friend of mine wipes down the wet counter with a paper towel. Ever since I first saw her do this, I’ve followed her example.
If I’m waiting in a grocery-store checkout line to buy one or two items, I’m always grateful when the customer in front of me allows me to go ahead of him. It’s astonishing when a stranger is observant enough to notice me and patient enough not to mind delaying his own checkout.
Years ago, when I was a single mother, my children and I often spent time at the home of a family who lived nearby. Whenever we were ready to leave, our hosts would escort us to our car—even in a downpour! This small effort made me feel safe and cared for.
I adore any airplane passenger who takes the time to help others place luggage in the overhead bin (or remove it). When I’m struggling to lift a bag on my own, I grow anxious because I know that people are watching and waiting. Hearing the phrase “Let me get that for you” brings me instant relief.
When I accompany my husband to his work events, I’m usually introduced as “Gary’s wife.” So it’s a surprising treat if someone introduces me by my name and includes a detail about me, like “She’s a teacher” or “She serves on the volunteer board at the children’s theater.” I’m proud to be married to my husband, but I like to maintain my own sense of identity as well.
Human interaction should trump electronic interaction. That’s why I appreciate it when a customer puts his cell phone away when ordering coffee, checking in for an appointment, or paying at a register. By focusing on your phone, you are being disrespectful to the person trying to serve you. People should look others in the eye and give them their full attention.
Last November, Lightning, my 17-year-old Pomeranian, passed away. I was devastated. I was so touched to receive a condolence card for my dog’s death from my friend Carrie. It was reassuring to know that a loved one took my loss seriously and understood its significance.
I served in the U.S. Navy for four years. Sometimes, when strangers spot my Navy bumper sticker or a pin from my old uniform attached to my shirt, they approach me and say, “Thank you for your service.” Each time, I am incredibly moved. Thank a veteran if you see one. It’s a simple act that means so much.
My husband and I often traveled together before he passed away in 2007. On these trips, he liked to ask fellow travelers if they wanted a photo with companions or the scenery. They were grateful for the request. Now, when I’m on an excursion with a friend and a stranger asks if we would like a photo together, I’m touched and reminded of my husband’s generosity.
When I took the elevator in the office building where I used to work, I was amazed at how impatient and rude people could be. Those who engaged in basic elevator etiquette—waiting patiently for others to exit the elevator, offering to hit the floor button for someone—made the ride more pleasant for everyone.
Nowadays people talk so fast and forget to listen. They feel the need to take advantage of every single pause. I am soft-spoken and talk slowly at times, so I’m impressed when others wait to make sure I’ve finished my thought or story before responding.