The Virtue of Courtesy, by Donald DeMarco

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Courtesy is the entrance-level virtue that allows strangers to suddenly feel that they are kindred spirits. It is also the foundation on which other virtues might be established, such as kindness, thoughtfulness, amicability, and generosity.

By Donald DeMarco, “The Virtue of Courtesy.” Lay Witness (November 1999), Posted Catholic Education Resource Center

Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo Ontario.

Marshall McLuhan once described the newspaper as “orchestrated discontinuity.” It is difficult to ascertain how much influence the newspaper has had on life, but life itself has become an increasingly exasperating experience of “orchestrated discontinuity.”

I recently drove into a gas station to fill my tank and take advantage of its new, at-the-pump method of payment that dispenses with the need of a human cashier. The computer, however, did not “recognize” my credit card and therefore did not “authorize” its use. I was therefore obliged, though not unhappily, to deal with a human being. She explained to me that, in her opinion, the reason the computer did not accept my card was because it may have had a nick or scratch on it. “These machines are very sensitive,” she said, in an understanding tone that seemed to reflect the voice of considerable experience. We examined the card. I always kept it snug in my leather wallet, giving it a private pouch that was free from any possible rough contact with other cards. Yet, there it was, a tiny abrasion on the upper edge enough, presumably, to make it unrecognizable to the sensitive eye of the computer. ….