Sage advice from an old comic strip

I belong to a Facebook group for fans of old comic strips. Recently, someone mentioned a strip called "Wee Pals" by a gentleman named Morrie Turner (d. 1974). "Wee Pals" featured a group of kids of all races, and always had a gently made point or moral.

The specific episode I remember featured a bad-tempered kid with red hair. In that day's episode, the kid was with a bunch of others, and had nothing good to say about anything. Every game someone suggested was "stupid," every person mentioned was "an idiot," and so on. He had something derogatory to say in every panel.

Finally, the kid left, grumbling about something or other. The other kids all commented on how miserable he was, how he wasn't any fun. And one character turned to the "camera" and said, "Try to make people happy when you arrive, instead of when you leave."

That simple truth has guided me al my life. It seems so easy, yet how many irritable or negative people do you know in your life? We seem to encounter a lot of them on social media these days. I think they've been around for as long as there have been humans. The reason we're now so aware of them is social media.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others all give everyone a platform to make pronouncements. From Parnassus, if you will. And there seem to be more and more of them each day. Humanity is slipping into tribes again, with divisions over nearly everything.

Politics and religion have always been the hottest of the "hot button" issues. I'm sure most of you know they're the two topics you're never supposed to bring up in any social gathering.

Yet no one seems willing to meet anyone halfway. We have become a society of "blamers." Neither side's adherents seem willing to sit down and talk about things without pointing fingers. We suffer from a lack of empathy toward each other. No one seems able or willing to imagine themselves in the position of the other.

And that's a shame on all of us. "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" is just a cluster of words some of us hear in church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. If we hear them at all, we leave them in our holy place.

There is a way to fix the problem. It seems deceptively simple, yet it's difficult to put into practice. It's called civility.

Civility. Politeness. Courtesy. Respect. Decorum. They're all synonyms of the same idea, expressed in that old "Wee Pals" comic strip: "Try to make people happy when you arrive, instead of when you leave."

Is that so difficult?

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