Virtues in Our Culture

 Posted by on 11 December 2012 at 10:00 am  Activism, Benevolence, Culture, Justice, Rights
Dec 112012

Yesterday, I bought some clothes at Nordstrom’s, in part for today’s photo shoot. Alas, I left my credit card with the saleshelperlady. I discovered that when I opened my wallet at the next store. So I went back to Nordstrom’s, and I found the saleshelperlady. The moment that she saw me, she exclaimed, “OH, I’M SO GLAD THAT YOU’RE HERE!” She was mortified that she’d failed to return my card. But, in the meantime, she’d kept my card safe, and she was hoping that I’d return for it.

What’s remarkable about this story is just how un-remarkable it is. Incidents like this — where a person chooses to be honest and decent rather than taking easy advantage of a stranger — happen every day in America. Yes, thieves and cheats exist, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Mostly, we can trust random strangers to be decent and honest and friendly.

That’s a major cultural achievement, and it’s grown stronger in significant ways in recent decades. (Today, a decent person accords that basic respect and consideration to everyone, not just to people deemed to be of the proper religion, color, sex, or class.) Such goodness is all around us, but we’re so steeped in it that we often overlook it.

So… take a moment to notice such goodness this holiday season. It’s there, it’s real, and it’s important. You will brighten your whole outlook if you make an effort to notice of these small examples of rationality, benevolence, and justice in our culture.

Plus, this is the kind of deep moral foundation on which cultural change — and, eventually, political change — can be built. So be hopeful, be joyous, and be an exemplar of the virtues you want to see in others!

  • Tjitze de Boer

    I’ve been told that I take some of my own good behavior too much for granted.. It feels so weird when you think that something should be so obvious and someone else commends you for it.

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