December 14, 2021- The male hairstylist looked puzzled, as I told him I had an appointment with one of his colleagues. He had cut my hair once before, and done a fine job. The shop, however, lets whoever takes the phone call claim a customer for themselves. So, I found myself in K’s chair, and she did a wonderful job, as well, taking extra care. In the end, I again thanked Navy retiree, H, for his service, which at least made his day a bit better.

Many times, it is worth both time and energy to offer gratuities. Usually, they involve small amounts of money, but words and acts of kindness are often just as valued by the receiver. Common courtesies, which ought to be part of everyone’s repertoire, are a prime example. God knows, the few times that I have been self-absorbed and not looked behind me, when going through a door, and just let it close, have had me eating crow.

Where gratuitousness becomes a problem is when it is at variance with one’s own deepest ethical convictions. The late Senator J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, despite his belief that it was necessary to the good of the nation. His vote was in a dubious solidarity with his archconservative colleague, John McClellan. Fulbright almost immediately thereafter told the press: “I’m glad we lost”. It is academic, as to what Fulbright’s true beliefs on racial equality were, and his gratuitousness towards both his White Supremacist colleagues and the Black community of Arkansas only muddied the waters, in the latter years of his tenure.

I have seen all sorts of similar behaviour, from both public figures and people in relationships. It is said that this is needed to “maintain peace in the house”. There is a growing ability, especially among younger people, to see right through such statements and actions. Youth has always been a time for wanting things to be seen as they are-and to make changes based on that reality.

Maybe that is why the presence of authentic people is still so important to me.

2 thoughts on “Gratuities

    • A treasured friend from my youth once said that there were two types of people he trusted: Children under ten and senior citizens with all their faculties. I would extend the younger age to fifteen, in a good many cases, but the second group definitely still holds true.


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