Today I was chatting with one of the veterans I tutor on campus, and we were talking about kindness. “These Penn kids are the worst,” he said, “especially the ones in Wharton. They don’t know how to say thank you or please.”
I was instantly ashamed by what he had said. But I also knew he was completely right.
For students who work so hard to be the best at everything, it seems that we’ve let common courtesy and respect fall by the wayside. It’s clear that we here at Penn have an attitude problem, especially when it comes to how we treat campus staff.
There are times where I see kindness at its best; I see students chatting it up with the dining hall staff or giving a much-needed hug to a security guard. But I also see a lot of disrespect. It’s not hard to smile at the Starbucks baristas and say thanks instead of burying your face in your phone as you throw them your credit card. It won’t take time away from your internship search if you say “please” when ordering your sandwich at Bridge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a door slammed in my face because someone was apparently too much in a rush to hold it open behind them.
These things take seconds; not minutes. If you added up all of the time you spent on Facebook today, that would be hundreds of seconds you could use to say your pleases, thank yous, and even start a conversation with a campus staffer. There’s really not an excuse.
Obviously, as alluded to before, I don’t wish to make sweeping generalizations. There are plenty of us out there who are nothing but kind around campus. But there are obviously enough of us messing up for fellow campus users to take note. And to be honest, it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing that people given the amazing opportunity to attend college at all, especially a respectable institution like Penn, are failing to do show the simple kindnesses and courtesies we teach our kindergarteners.
Regardless of whether you’re a Penn student reading this or not, I hope next time you go out you pay closer attention to how you treat those around you. I’ll be the first to say that I could benefit from some self-awareness. You may not be aware of it, but the small kindnesses you deliver daily (or don’t deliver!) not only get noticed, but they make a difference.