Good manners never out of style

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thank you note

No one is born with good manners. I know this for sure because my mother’s favorite quote was “God made no excuses for bad manners!”

Whether it was at home or in public, manners were a daily ritual to be practiced. Proper etiquette also mandated that just saying “thank you” was not enough. Sitting down and legibly penning a thank-you note was also a habit of reverence.

When I established my own home, some of that logic had be handed down to our boys. There were the constant reminders of elbows off the table, sit up straight, don’t play with your food, and that language is inappropriate. No one escaped a little house training…including my husband.

I began with the gentle reminders but some threats were very effective. And yes, they became the authors of thank-you notes. I did not expect a dissertation, but the words had to express appreciation.

We just finished with our eighth consecutive year of DairyPalooza. It has grown in the same way that manners are taught. Repetition and habit combine for many teachable moments.

This year, manners (in the form of penning thank-you notes) became a session in the rotation with quality assurance training. Sandwiched between the GPPs, we managed a moment or two to reflect upon the GEP (good etiquette practice) of crafting a note of appreciation to our sponsors.

What an absolute surprise and pleasure it was to read a few of the 300 or so cards. They were imperfect as some words may have been misspelled, the lines were uneven, and some scratched out one thought to replace with another that seemed to sound better. However, they were just perfect, as nothing could have been more genuine and sincere to the reader/sponsors.

Can we ever understand the impact of a handwritten note of appreciation? That simple gesture has the power to change lives, especially our own.

Our planning committee hit the target when this was added to our curriculum. It was the real value-added product of the day.

This is just a story in the process of 4-H teaching us to strive to make the best better. We really know the roots of manners and etiquette begin at home and the unsung heroes, like my mother, who simply won’t let us escape the lesson. Even above our protests and grumbles, they ring in our ears.

Just now my grandson is leaving with his daddy. There were those beautiful words uttered by this 4-year-old, “Thank you, Grandma.” I smiled and so did great-grandmother standing in the background.

Some things never change, especially the value of good manners. Do not leave home without them, but also remember that home is the perfect place to learn and practice.

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Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University, coordinating all state 4-H dairy programs and coaching the OSU collegiate and 4-H dairy judging teams. She and her husband also own and operate a Brown Swiss and Guernsey cattle farm. In 1994, Bonnie was named Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.

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