Courtesy and Acts of Kindness

Family welcoming woman with flowers
Put a smile on someone's face with flowers. Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Do you ever wonder what it means to have good manners? Are you confused by all the rules of proper etiquette

Proper etiquette involves courtesy, which is defined by Dictionary.com as excellent manners, polite behavior, and social conduct. Merriam-Webster defines it as good manners or respect for others.

Any society that is populated by courteous people offers a higher quality lifestyle than one where people are rude and inconsiderate.

It's always good to follow the basic guidelines for social or business etiquette, but you can take a step farther by doing acts of kindness. You may discover that one small gesture or offer of help can make the difference in someone's entire day.

Here are some ideas for acts of kindness to take courtesy to a whole new level:

  1. Visit the elderly – Stop off at a nursing home or retirement center and ask the director or manager if there is anyone who would enjoy having a visitor. You can bring magazines, play a game, or just have a friendly chat.
  2. Mow your neighbor's lawn – Next time you mow your lawn, extend a neighborly hand and mow the one next door.
  3. Bring food – Prepare a special treat to take to work and share it with everyone in your office. If you don't have the time or talent to make something, stop off at a bakery or doughnut shop and pick something up. It doesn't have to be much. A bag of doughnut holes can be a fun surprise.
  1. Pick up the tab – Pay for the meal of the person behind you at a fast food restaurant. Most young parents will appreciate your generosity.
  2. Hold a door for someone – When you enter a store, restaurant, or other public place, hold the door for someone behind you and let them go ahead.
  3. Offer to tutor – If you have knowledge or a skill that someone's child needs help with, offer to tutor that child. This could be a neighbor, coworker's child, or someone from church. You might make a difference between that child failing or succeeding in his or her studies.
  1. Prevent a ticket or towing – If you see that a parking meter is about to expire in a space where there is a car, stick some change into it to buy a little more time for the person.
  2. Return a few shopping carts to the store – If you see stray shopping carts taking up parking spaces, gather a few of them and take them to one of the corrals, or even better, to the store. You'll make someone's job easier, and the bonus is you'll free up a parking space for someone.
  3. Bring supplies to an animal shelter – Most animal shelters need extra towels, pet food, animal toys, and stuffed animals. If you don't have these items on hand, you can often find them for a very low price at garage sales and thrift stores.
  4. Write a thank you note – Most teachers, pastors, and service people appreciate recognition for the work they do, so send a thank you note to let them know how you feel.
  5. Stand up – Offer your seat on public transportation to someone who looks tired, is pregnant, or is elderly.
  6. Smile – Look people in the eye and smile as you pass them in stores or on the street. That person may be having a difficult day, and your simple gesture can make it much brighter.
  1. Compliment – Give someone a random compliment. The key to doing this successfully is to be sincere, which shouldn't be difficult if you're observant.
  2. Love note – Don't forget about the people you love. Your spouse or child will appreciate a brief note reminding him or her of your love. This might be the boost your family member needs to get through a difficult day.
  3. Cook a meal for someone – If you know someone is busy, cook a meal for his or her family. It's even better if you put the meal in disposable containers or pans that the person can keep.
  4. Rainy day help – Pick up a couple of inexpensive umbrellas and offer them to coworkers or even complete strangers when it rains unexpectedly.
  5. Tip generously – After you receive good service at a restaurant or other place where you typically leave a tip, add a little extra to show your gratitude.

After you do a few of these things, you may discover that you're addicted to courteous acts of kindness. And who knows? You may even start a trend in your community. Whatever the case, you'll be known as a nice person with great manners.