Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

It was a fine day, and I took a break from my desk work and walked to the post office.

I often walk in order to think more clearly, stepping on some of the same sidewalks I walked barefoot on as a young girl. Nowadays, though, I don’t stub my big toe and I know that if you step on a crack it won’t break your mother’s back, despite that strange warning we used to chant. Growing up does have its good points!

When I entered the post office and looked down at the birthday card I wanted to mail, it struck me that perhaps its big square shape would require more postage than the Forever birthday stamp I’d stuck in the corner. I had come without a cent on my person. A quick measurement by our friendly postal lady confirmed my concern.

An attractive patron was filling out a form beside me. Overhearing my plight, she immediately said that she would pay whatever I needed. I joked that it might be $75 dollars and she didn’t flinch, she only laughed and repeated her offer. The clerk did some magical postal calculations and said, “it will be 40 cents.” My rescuer paid it forthwith and, being a situational pauper, I promised her I would pay it forward, and I knew immediately what I wanted to write in this week’s column.

This little vignette goes beyond etiquette. It is about putting oneself in another’s shoes and caring enough to make the situation better for her. I was, and still am, very grateful for that unsolicited kindness. Such expressions of human goodness are happening all around us, and we need to be reminded of them so that our personal reality isn’t one of cynicism.

So, please Dear Readers, share your experiences of surprising kindness by sending it to me at my email below. I am most eager to hear of it and share it.

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at