In my experience courtesy is a major requirement of being in a community. Courtesy to me is the act of being polite and respectful. But I find that as I practice being courteous, I often breakout with acts of kindness, helpfulness, all of which surely helps the community connection.
So, as I practice courtesy, I find that I tend to be more courteous not only to other community members, but also those outside my community. I find this happens even if the person is relatively a stranger. Perhaps the person is only someone I see, say hello to, every time I stop at the post office. Soon I find myself opening doors, helping to carry a big box or get the car door open. and surprise, my community just grew a little bit bigger. Who knows, perhaps some day that person will become a friend.
As I found myself becoming connected to a community, I found my acts of courtesy spilling over to more and more people. I began greeting more people as I recognized their faces. Saying hello, wishing them a good day. Opening doors for others. Getting into pleasant conversations with people in line at the store checkout. Helping overloaded people with their bags. Lending a hand to unload trash bags from someone's car at the trash dump.
I surprised myself by extending courtesy to more and more people, often strangers, even tourists! Before you know it, I'm helping a disabled person put gasoline into their car. Letting someone else take the parking spot we were both heading for. Letting another car into the line of traffic. Helping out a confused tourist.
The courtesy thing snowballs into actions. Every day brings a different, sometimes new, connection to the community. Often the things I do surprise myself! These acts are definitely not things I would have considered doing while living on the Eastcoast. I often see a person I recognize on the roadside thumbing a ride. I stop, pick them up and drive them into town. I will go out of my way to give a community member a ride to the doctor or even the airport 2 hours away. I often stop to help change a tire or make sure the person with a broken down car is ok, sometimes arranging for a tow and driving them home.
I find myself returning shopping carts to the cart line inside the store rather than leaving them in the parking lot. My town is small, so there are no cart cages out in the lots. I often buy a newspaper for the elderly shut-in whose house I pass when going to my mother's. It is not uncommon for me to drop off an extra piece of cake or pie to the old man that lives along the highway by himself.
Hubby and I eat at the local restaurant each week. Sometimes the place can be jammed, with no empty tables left. The first time we offered to share our table with some tired, worried looking folks, we not only surprised ourselves that we did it, but actually enjoyed chatting with the strangers. We now offer to share the table on a regular basis to the point that the waitresses are aware of our habit.
Courtesy to me also can extend to compliments. Just the other day I thanked the employee at the trash dump for keeping the place so clean. Yes, it is part of his job, but it is nice to see that he puts a good effort into it. He was proud of his job and happy to be complimented. My compliment was genuine.
While acts of courtesy keep my community connection alive, the acts grow and spill over into other acts......like being nice, happy, appreciative. And while courtesy applies to acts of politeness, it often grows to include acts of caring. Plus one surprising effect, courtesy can be infectious. Countess times I've let another driver get into traffic only to see them extend the same courtesy to another driver a short distance down the road. How wonderful! Yup, before you know it, random acts of kindness break out.