September is, among many other designations, National Courtesy Month.
We are all so busy that oftentimes it’s difficult to remember to “mind our manners.” We are quick to blurt out statements without giving them much — if any — thought. This is especially true when it comes to comments regarding disability and, in many cases, invisible disabilities. Comments like, “You don’t look autistic,” or “That person parked in a handicap spot but they clearly don’t have a disability” aren’t just impolite –they are ignorant and damaging. It’s easy to make assumptions, but one major part of being courteous to others is minding one’s own business and refraining from judgment, particularly about things we know nothing about. We cannot know about a stranger’s medical, emotional, psychological or mental condition by looking at them. And despite what many think, we can’t even know someone’s true physical condition just by visual observation.
And really, we shouldn’t. We are not entitled to that information unless it is directly granted to us by the person him/herself. Unsolicited comments or questions about another person’s state of being are not polite and can oftentimes end up being offensive or hurtful.
It’s so easy to forget to give others the kindness we would expect paid to us. So this month, and all others, let’s try a bit harder to remember our manners, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to be polite as much as possible, and to withhold judgment. After all, as the old expression goes, you really can’t tell a book by its cover.