Just for Dads ~ September 2022

by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services

“I’m just a common man, drive a common van. My dog ain’t got a pedigree.” 

This is a line from a hit country song, “Common Man,” from the 1980s by John Conlee. Listening to that song, I had a clear picture in my mind of what he was trying to convey. He wore jeans and boots, worked hard, and drove a Ford or Chevy pickup truck because that’s what a common country music man did. The definition of a common man would be different today, brushed off as “without influence or power.” Common car brands today include many foreign models that were considered exotic in the 1980s. We use the word “common” to describe may words: common good, common practice, common ground, common knowledge, common law, common prayer, common sense, and—I think most importantly—common courtesy. 

Merriam-Webster describes the word “common” as “widespread, general common knowledge.” How did common sense and common courtesy become widely accepted knowledge, and who is teaching it today? We are continuing to find ways to isolate ourselves and have fewer face-to-face interactions with others. The vitriol that is spread from friends, acquaintances, and strangers on keyboards—a safe distance from fists—is desensitizing us to consequences of discourteous behavior. 

Photograph by John Cameron on Unsplash.

I was at Walmart recently, and two men cut in front of me in line as I was standing six feet away from the cashier, waiting to be called upon. Growing up in south Texas, cutting line in front of another man would have been grounds for a serious butt-whooping, and I would have deserved it.  My childhood peers, mom, teachers, and coaches all discouraged me from selfish acts by real and unspoken consequences, and they helped me to learn the definition of common courtesy. Traveling during the past months, I’ve noticed that people seem to have difficulty waiting for others to exit elevators, waiting for the rows in front to exit before they deplane, holding off on having personal conversations in private, and other behaviors that would not be considered courteous to others. It seems there is a plea to be kind every day, but I don’t think there is a consensus of what kindness means. 

As parents we must understand that creating well-adjusted adults means we must prioritize the social and emotional well-being of our kids. It seems adults have not fully learned how, or are just plain uninterested in, playing nice with one another.  One of my mentors continually talks about the “village mentality,” where neighbors looked out for the well-being of the community. We must realize we are connected to others, find things in common with our community, and we must teach our children to be empathetic. Let’s hope “common” actually becomes common again.

Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at ward@vfsdads.com.


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