Reprinted with permission from The Green Bay Press Gazette
I recently spent two weeks getting away from the cold and enjoying the sun in Puerto Vallarta at a timeshare resort. Between the time we spent at the resort, on various tours, and in the city, we were always treated with the highest level of friendliness, helpfulness and what I came to realize was civility. Their attitude made a huge difference in the enjoyment of our stay.
It was after several tours that I truly noticed what each tour guide was saying to us and its impact on the entire tour and each individual in attendance. With each we had some travel time before we reached our destination. We were provided all the information that we would need when we got there. Additionally we were given further information about the area, the culture and the country.
Each told us that the area’s prosperity was based 90 percent on tourism. Everyone who lived there recognized this fact. Once we arrived, after reminders for a pleasurable stay was a statement to us all to treat each other well and respectfully. Our last guide stated it this way: “My mother always said to me, we share the same planet, we breathe the same air.”
All the staff followed this civil behavior. There were sufficient staff to meet our needs. If they saw one of us needing help, they were immediately there. I was having trouble putting on my flippers. A staff was there and quickly helped. My friends and I went to a site to go on a hike and somehow missed him. We asked another who had just finished with a scuba diving group, he took us on the full hike with enthusiasm. The guides worked together so each group had the experience by themselves. When time allowed, they provided us with some extras.
But by their actions, I saw the power of civility. Their words impacted our behavior. Participants were happier and friendlier with each other. They were respectful of others’ space and time. They would come forward and be helpful to another.
When one is treated in a civil manner, one tends to act accordingly. Differences were much more easily dealt with.
On our off-road tour there were 13 participants and our guide. Nine of us were from the U.S., two from England and two from Germany, and we traveled on benches on the back of a truck facing each other. He helped us to get to know each other, and we all found some commonalities.
Later in the day, he asked the German couple about their World War II experience. They were very candid. He then ended the discussion by thanking them for sharing and that he just wanted to understand. He used the tool of listening and being inclusive.
At the resort whenever you came to an entry way, a staff member was there, in part for security reasons. That staff member greeted each person with a hello and then put is his/her hand on their heart. I learned that meant that it was heartfelt. Again I saw the power of this simple greeting, of civility. First it was returned, but each of us would expand that greeting to all our meetings with other guests and staff. We would start conversations with others, share information, honor the space that others had already claimed and respect the resort grounds.
Further understanding of these aspects of civility came from a book that I was reading while there titled “The End of Your Life Book Club.” The mother who was dying and had a strong faith shared many views of how she lived.
One action was to always try to greet whoever she met with a smile, friendliness and respect. While she had no idea how that person was feeling that day, she believed that providing a kind and friendly greeting can impact how that person could now feel. Now that person could continue the day in a more positive and similar manner.
That was certainly being demonstrated to me as I enjoyed my vacation. The people of Puerto Vallarta were genuine in their civil manner to their guests. We as guests passed it back to them and to other guests.
Civility begins with a kind and respectful gesture to anyone we meet, every day.
This is a monthly column from the Door County Civility Project, which seeks to promote a more civil dialogue. For more information about the project, visit doorcountycivilityproject.org.
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