There are many skills I want to teach my children and my students. There are many characteristics I would like to foster in the next generation. Being considerate ranks at the top.
This has been a busy summer for my family, sharing quarters with relatives at home and away. Living with people, especially those you don’t always live with, is hard. Cultures and values sometimes clash. When extra bodies are occupying a small space, considerate behaviour is an absolute necessity.
Let’s reflect on the case of the humble toilet roll. For me, an empty toilet roll, sitting pathetically with it’s two shredded bits of tissue stuck to the glue - not even enough to wipe a mouse-sized tushie - has become the symbol of inconsideration. How does this occur? One comes to the bathroom, completes their business, uses the last of the roll and then walks away?
It is the ultimate I-am-only-here-to-serve-myself message.
There is no thought to who might be using the bathroom next. Could it be a preschooler, struggling to conquer the independent toilet regime, could it be someone with an upset tummy, could it be a busy mama balancing a squirmy toddler on her hip? Whom ever it is, do they not deserve the comfort and convenience of a ready roll? It's about caring about the experience of the next person.
Consideration is a hundred little acts that show you are thinking about others:
Moving over to give someone more space.
Turning down the volume on your headphones or tv.
Vacating the priority seating on public transit.
Putting things back where they belong.
Letting a car in your lane in front of you.
Helping someone when their hands are full.
Speaking kindly to service staff.
Holding the elevator door.
Emptying the dishwasher.
Cleaning up after yourself at the food court.
Often considerate acts go unnoticed, but inconsideration can be glaring. No one will know that you wiped the water up you splashed on the sink, but the next person to lean against the counter will sure notice if you didn’t. I won’t realize how often you picked up your dog’s poop from the soccer field, or how much energy you put into getting your litter into the proper garbage cans, but let me say now, THANKS FOR THIS!
Let us teach our children to be considerate of others. Consideration leads to compassion. Compassion leads to empathy. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if there was a little more empathy around?
I’m not saying that teaching your child to change a toilet roll, or your teenager not to leave the gas tank on empty, will ensure they do not grow into a contemptible adult - but it’s a step in the right direction.
How can someone who really thinks about how their actions impact their fellow humans go on to bully someone or target a specific group? How can a compassionate, empathetic person also be bigoted and spout hatred?
With our hyper-connected world, the headlines showcasing hostility and acts of violence are coming at us thick and fast these days. I don’t know if the world is really in worse shape or if our awareness of atrocity has become heightened, but I do know that I’d like our children to carve out a better society for the future.
Maybe, just maybe, teaching them the value of changing the empty toilet roll will get that ball rolling.