Growing up gracious

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
People watching is always fun to me. I can do it for hours and don’t usually mind waiting in hospitals, doctor’s offices, or airports. My entertainment comes from simply watching those around me, wondering to myself, and imagining what their lives are like, where they might be going, or what they are really feeling. I ask questions like, “Goodness, did that couple look like that when they met?” Or, “Did they age like that over the years?” I often think, “Man, they sure seem to match each other.” Or, “Goodness, she is a mean one!” Occasionally, I wonder, “How did she ever land him or vice versa?”

People watching and observing is a fun game and harmless unless one takes it too far and interjects their hobby onto or into the lives of the observed. I would very seldom speak to a stranger in one of these scenarios I have mentioned unless the Lord put it into my heart to offer help or to answer a question asked of me.

Observing others and interacting is different in family or friends’ gatherings, being part of a group, or in other holiday fellowships. In these environments, where one is expected to be close, we see the rubber hitting the road and the gloves coming off, as the old adage goes.

Being in several such situations in recent days, even in our limited capacity with COVID, I spied a huge missing element in the lives of some guests of all ages. Where has the art of being gracious gone? Do we not teach “graciousness” any longer? Is it no longer in vogue to be kind, considerate, attentive to detail, and to honor others?

I am not a prude and I genuinely love people. Our home has always had an open door policy. And, Lord knows, I have fed thousands and will gladly cook and clean and make welcome again. But, kind or not, there are general rules of good behavior and graciousness.

If you are 20 or 30-something, have a job, can buy every new electronic toy on the market, dress in snazzy clothing, brag about who you have seen in concert, and generally act like Mr. Big, offer to contribute. Be gracious. Don’t show up empty handed. Ask the host or hostess what they need. You don’t have to cook. Bring the ice, the drinks, go by the bakery, pick up flowers, or at least offer to take out the darn trash.

These non-gracious folks I observed practically knocked others down to get to the food, piled the best meats high on already filled plates, left their used things where they emptied them, and not once offered to help.

Elders were not honored, and in fact, in one case, asked to move from a sofa where the young man wanted to sit. Before the food could be put away and areas cleaned, refrigerator doors were held open, looking for the next round.

My conclusion is that these folks were never taught to be gracious by anyone and we are paying the price now. A gracious person has learned to put others before himself and looks for ways to make others feel comfortable, appreciated, and valued. A gracious person knows to “wait his turn” and how to express thanks. A gracious person looks out for the comfort of others and is a thoughtful, contributing guest.

Practice being gracious and watch your family and social invitations soar. Continue to act in ungracious ways and learn to entertain yourself and stay home.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at 409 781 8788, or
[email protected]

[This article was first published on Nov-30-2020]

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