As good citizens, we need civility’s return

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It’s getting hot out there. After months of winter and a brief flirtation with spring, we’ve lurched directly into summer. Strawberries, plump and red, are appearing in local markets. Captivated by their color and the promise of flavor, I purchase an entire flat, along with an angel food cake from an Amish bakery. Slabs of cake will be layered with juicy berries, then topped with whipped cream (real, of course) from a nearby creamery.

It’s getting hot out there. Even in flyover country where hardworking citizens pay their taxes, raise their kids, and live their ordinary lives, the heat is nearly unbearable, and by heat, I mean the rancor and strife in the national conversation. The civility that used to govern public discourse is a rare commodity now, and America is hurting from its loss.

The word civility comes from the Latin word civilis, which means “relating to public life; befitting a citizen.” Herein lies the compass that can help us find our way. As citizens of this country, we have a duty to comport ourselves honorably, to treat our fellow citizens with respect. Those of us who are citizens of a heavenly kingdom have an even greater responsibility, for we represent not only an earthly country, but a higher one.

How does it look in this darkening age where evil no longer hides, but trumpets loudly in the streets? How does it work in the face of deep ideological differences?

“Be tough on the issues, but gentle with people.” This is what I have learned. As one small American mom, it seems there’s so little I can do to change the course of a nation, but this, I can do—I can be gentle and loving (i.e., civil) to those nearby. To illustrate how I live this out, I offer the following story. It happened last year.


We step inside the doors. It’s busy tonight at Chick-fil-A. The line is long. Just before me, two young men step into place. They are lean, muscular, fit, and dressed in very tight, tiny clothes.

“It’s so hot,” says the fellow in flamboyant glasses. “I need a napkin.” He disappears, then returns with a napkin. He is mopping his face.

“We have a 16-year-old who’s workin’ the fair in this heat,” I volunteer, and his friend who’s just in front of me, he smiles.

“He oughta be getting double pay,” he says, and I’m laughing.

“Glasses” drops to the floor in that long, long line and rests his back against the wall. He’s truly suffering from the heat, and so I bend low. “Do you need some water?” I ask.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll get some.” But soon he rises and makes his way to a quiet corner where he can sit and rest. As always, my maternal heart is stirring.

I leave my place in line and approach the counter. “There’s a customer over there who needs some ice water. Could I have a cup, please?” The girl at the drink machine nods and hands me a glass of ice water and a straw.

I carry it over to Glasses. “Thank you!” he says, accepting it gratefully.

Looking into his face, I tell him, “I’m the mother of four boys. I love it when other mothers look out for my sons, so I am doing this for your mother.”

Ah, his face. It’s smiling and warm, and my heart is expanding right there. I run my maternal checks. Heat is hard for him, he’s got asthma, he has an inhaler, it’s out in the car, and he’ll be okay for now. Feeling assured, I leave him.

I return to the line. The other half of the pair is still holding their place. Looking at him, I say, “I took your friend some water. I love it when others look out for my boys, so I told him I’m doing it for his mother.” Now his face is smiling, and the old woman just ahead, she’s listening.

“Is your mother still alive?” I say to the lanky, lean, young man. He hesitates. His eyes drop down to the floor. A pause, and then a quiet, “Yes.”

“Do you talk to her?” Another pause. He is quiet, wrestling.

“I don’t really like to answer questions,” he says, and I’m smiling again.

“That’s okay. I just want you to know that there are mothers who love other mothers’ kids.” And the old woman standing on the other side of him, she says it, too. “That’s right!”

For a brief moment, all else fades away. The young man in pink, he is sandwiched by Love. My soul feels the import and the Presence.

He gets their food, and we order ours. As my husband lingers to pay, I slip over to the table where the two young men are eating. Sitting down in front of them, I look into their eyes. “There is something special about you. I want you to know that there’s a mother in this world who loves you.”

I speak to them of things dear to my heart, and their own hearts and ears, they are open. At my request, they tell me their names, and then this tiny, fearless mother explains it. “This is how it works. When I meet people like this, I get their names, and months later when they come to my mind, I pray for them.”

They are grinning. They are happy and hopeful, and so am I.

We finish our dinner, they finish theirs, and with waves and smiles, we part ways. On the way home, my quiet, wise husband says to me, “As soon as I saw them, I knew what was going to happen.” His face is alight, there’s light in my heart, and I know I’ll remember those boys.


True civility doesn’t begin with politics. It begins in the heart. I can and should strongly oppose evil, but if I hate another human being, I have lost my very soul. That is a price too costly to pay. As a citizen of heaven, such love, even in opposition, is my duty, my mission, my joy.

May God bless America. May her citizens choose a love for Him and their fellowman that stems evil’s tide and brings some heaven down to earth.


  1. I heard you tell this story on Bo’s show this morning. It touched my heart, I had to search it and read it to my husband. I’m so grateful for you and for your writing.

  2. Kindness:-)
    This word came to my heart when standing in line at Safeway. The cashier was pleasant and we had a moment to share briefly about cheese! Yum. You have a kind heart. Hi to Grant:-)

    1. I appreciate this, Bob. Thank you! And I’m happy to hear you are practicing this as well. Let it spread. 🙂

  3. I love reading your blog even though I very rarely comment. This time you made me think of something I learned very early in my career.

    I was only a few years into my career and I was working overtime at a firehouse with a very veteran crew. I had about three years experience and one of the guys had over thirty. I learned more from the old veteran firefighters than I ever learned from books. That day would be a day I learned something very valuable.

    We worked 24 hour shifts, and the station I was assigned that day was one of the busiest stations at our department. It was around call number 15 that day when we went on one of those calls that you wish you could forget, but you know you will never be able to forget. It has been about 25 years since that call, but some nights I can still see the eyes of one woman looking at me might before she died from her injuries. I was able to decompress her son’s chest and save his life, but I still remember his mother looking at me.

    When we returned to the station, I asked the old veteran how all the old firefighters have been able to handle calls like that in their career. The old veteran looked at me and said his generation never talked about their emotions. He said that they all thought they had to just suck it up and be tough because nobody wanted to appear weak. He told me that all of the old guys had demons that will haunt them until the day they die. He also told me that it doesn’t have to be that way. He said the newer firefighters were starting to recognize that some of the things we were exposed to were not good for our mental state. The solution he gave was that during my career, I needed to help change the way firefighters helped each other during tough times. If I didn’t help change the culture, I would just become part of the problem.

    He then gave me the best advice I ever received. It was not only applicable to my job, but it was applicable to everything I do in life. He said, “When you look in the mirror, you see one of two things. You either see part of the problem, or part of the solution. The choice is yours”. He was right.

    The rest of the shift was good. I ended the shift by delivering a baby on the landing of a staircase at an apartment complex. I remember the look in the eyes of that newborns mother. It was a much different look than the eyes of the mother I had seen earlier. I told the newborns mother that I thought Chris was a great name for her baby boy, but she liked her grandfather’s name better. Oh well, I tried.

    When the shift ended, the veteran told me it was a pleasure working with me. He complemented me on my quick actions decompressing a child’s chest, and then he congratulated me on a successful delivery of a baby boy.

    I have thought about the advice he has given me many times. Things changed during my career. When I left the department, it was normal to talk about the calls that bothered us. If a firefighter was having trouble after a traumatic experience, there were a lot of resources to help. My generation became the solution, not the problem.

    His advice has helped me outside of the fire service. When I see something that bothers me, I help become the solution. If I don’t, I am part of the problem. Our world as we know it seems to be crumbling around us. It is time for good people to step up and be the solution, not the problem. You my friend, are one of those good people. If people would stop and look around, they would see that we have a lot more in common than they think.

    That veteran firefighter did a lot of good in his career. He helped people during what was one of their worst days. After he retired, his demons were too big for him to handle. And just like a lot of firefighters from his generation, he took his own life a little over a year after he retired. The advice his generation gave us rookies helped change the whole culture of the fire service. His advice could also help change the way we treat each other every day. We just need to decide if we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. You have chosen to be part of the solution, and I for one thank you.

    1. Chris. I don’t have any words that will do justice to your story. All I can say is, thank you so much for sharing it. There is solid gold in here.

      Love to you and the ginger. 🙂

  4. Rhonda,

    I, too, heard you on Bo’s radio show on Saturday. I seldom get to listen, so it was sheer serendipity to find you!

    Thanks so much for this vitally important reminder. We so easily forget to contemplate what matters most and what matters least during our busy days (and they’re all busy, aren’t they?).

    I’ve been thinking about what you experienced at Chick-fil A with the two young men. I suspect strongly that this is habitual and not random for you! Some would call it “going the extra mile”. I call it a Holy Moment, when you collaborate with God in the moment, putting aside self interest, being available to be His representative, and simply doing the next right thing in Love.

    We all live moment by moment, making countless decisions throughout each day, most seemingly insignificant, some profoundly important. By collaborating with God, we have the opportunity to turn the ordinary into extraordinary! You clearly did this in your story, and I applaud that👏

    I look forward to delving into this sight and gleaning wisdom and inspiration. Meanwhile, I’ll be sharing this with a few groups I participate in, knowing it’ll reinforce and encourage!

    Thanks again, and may you continue to count your blessings and BE a blessing🙏🏼

    1. Jeff, it is very nice to ‘meet’ you here. I’m so happy every time one of my stories is an encouragement to someone else. You are right; these encounters happen quite often. It was a prodigal son that taught me so much about how to love God and other people, especially the marginalized and struggling. Feel free to plumb this site for more of my stories about his journey. (My inaugural appearance on Bo’s show was at Thanksgiving where I shared his story with listeners. It is linked here in different blog posts.)

      God bless you.

    1. It’s something I learned with practice. Which means that anyone can learn it, too. 🙂

      Thank you so much.

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