We were with the young family of our daughter Anna and her husband, Aaron, at Thanksgiving and again in mid December. One of the joys of the fellowship was getting to see our granddaughter, Brielle, use her first sign language. She was only just beginning to say her first words at the time, but, boy, could she sign the word, "please". (That sign is communicated by patting the chest once with the palms of both hands.)
I don't recall what Brielle wanted in this photo as she sat on the floor of her nursery amidst many of her aunties (our daughters), but she obviously wanted it badly. By the time she'd reached the ripe-old-age of 18 months, Brielle had learned to pound her chest emphatically and repeatedly when she wanted something as she's doing here. And, don't you love the imploring look that went with her plea?
Brielle's new-found ability to sign "please", coupled with her willingness to use manners, makes this grandmother beam. Anna and Aaron have been intentional in teaching their little one her first lesson in courtesy. And their efforts have required perseverance. They began to demonstrate to Brielle how to sign "please" when she was about six months old. They had a wait of nearly a year before they saw results, during which they had to teach and reteach and reteach and... And, that they did. They showed Brielle how to sign the word, helped her tap her chest and then eventually required the sign before they would hand her what she was wanting. They persisted in the training that is the beginning of our granddaughter becoming a gracious child.
Good manners aren't simply a beautiful-but-really-unnecessary bow gracing the top of a nicely wrapped package. We shouldn't think of good manners as the cherry on top of a sundae. Courtesy is an unseen bridge between humans. Honoring others by being polite to them is the bare minimum when Jesus says, "Love others." Here's what the authors of the outstanding book The Love Dare for Parents have to say:
"Manners, at their very heart, are a way of expressing love and showing respect for the intrinsic value in other people, each made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Respectful etiquette displays a practical, living example of the Golden Rule in action (Luke 6:31). It minimizes unpleasantness by looking out not only 'for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others' (Philippians 2:4). It's how we follow the biblical command to 'honor all people' (1 Peter 1:17)." (Stephen and Alex Kendrick, The Love Dare for Parents, pg. 47)Good manners are God's idea. The Bible makes it clear that treating others with the kindness expressed through courtesy is "walking in a manner worthy of the Lord" (Colossians 1:10). Authors Stephen and Alex Kendrick make a powerful statement about the positive outcome of a parent's effort to teach their child good manners:
"Good manners...warm the heart and set the atmosphere at ease. Polite children make your experience with them a fragrance instead of a stench. They subtly raise the respect level in the house. Isn't that the kind of effect you want your children to have on others? On you?
"By intentionally teaching and modeling good manners for your children, you not only treat them with greater honor and respect, You also help them become a living blessing to others." (pg.46)
I love Brielle's emphatic thumps on her little chest when she wants me to know she really wants something. I feel inclined to lay down my own interests and meet her desires. And, honestly, I feel honored, even if she is only a toddler. Aaron and Anna have begun the process of teaching their first child that manners matter, and those who come into contact with Brielle over the years with be blessed. Manners matter.