When On Earth
I just returned from a cruise (New York - Bermuda - New York). Instead of being left with fond memories of the beautiful teal waters, what seems to be overshadowing is a voice echoing in my head: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Because at each new point of arrival or departure, we were reminded as a group of passengers of how to dress, talk, and behave while on the ship and on the island. Interesting when you consider the average age of the passengers was (I'm guessing) around 50 years.
When we boarded the ship, we were reminded to: wash our hands, be courteous, and dress properly. In addition to those "rules" (which one would hope would be common sense), when we arrived in Bermuda, we were told that the islanders would be offended if we did not respond to their cheerful greetings. From what I could tell, most passengers went out of their way to be good little boys and girls, and they behaved themselves. They were (for the most part) kind, clean, and courteous both on the ship and the island.
When we returned to New York after the peaceful seven-day excursion, the rules seemed to automatically switch. Everything changed -- the air temperature, the pace, the attitudes, the postures, etc. You could feel the defenses rising as people scrambled to protect themselves and their belongings from internal and external harm. To validate my subconscious senses, the woman behind me in the customs line started snapping her fingers and shouting in a strong New York accent: "COME AWN! LET'S GO! No stopping and looking behind you. We’re back in New York now." I turned slowly and glared at her. She laughed and continued arrogantly: "When I was on the island, I was polite and pleasant, but WE'RE BACK now... LET'S GO -- MOVE IT!"
When we finally made it through customs (I am proud to say that I didn't punch the woman in the face) -- we continued to fight through crowds of miserable faces to find our way to the bus. I needed to find a rest room, so I asked a security officer standing nearby. After he gave me directions (back into the customs building), I asked him if I needed to bring my passport back in with me. I wish I could show you a video of his response! He looked at me like I was completely out of my mind, made a face to mock me (like that was a dumb question -- and I'm not even !), and gave me a very long drawn out, goofy sounding: " (with the unspoken hint of -- YOU IDIOT attached)!!! To which I responded (staring directly in his face): "STOP THAT! That's very rude!" His attitude changed instantly, and he gave me a warm smile and a hearty laugh. I liked him even though he would have probably preferred that I didn't.
It was when we finally made it to the bus, loaded our luggage, and found our way to our seats, that the voices started: "You're not in Kansas anymore . . . when in Rome (or New York) . . . etc." And they haven't stopped since. So this morning I did a little research to see where that saying originated, and to my pleasant surprise its origin was related to my favorite saint -- Saint Augustine. In his Letters Volume 1, he wrote to St. Ambrose who replied:
"When I visit Rome, I fast on Saturday; when I am here, I do not fast. On the same principle, do you observe the custom prevailing in whatever Church you come to, if you desire neither to give offense by your conduct, nor to find cause of offense in another’s."*
Wow -- "if you desire neither to give offense by your conduct, nor to find cause of offense in another." Beautiful. Isn't that universal? Listen, I understand that there are different cultures, paces of life, customs, etc., but we're all on this planet together. We're all the same, and the rules of humanity should be the same everywhere. The rules of common decency and courtesy should be known and practiced everywhere we go from Rome to Bermuda to New York to China to New Zealand, etc. We need to broaden our perspective to see ourselves from the universe -- all on planet earth. We're all the same! We share the same biological and (for the most part) emotional/spiritual composition. We need to treat each other respectfully with kindness and gentleness -- wherever we go -- without instruction.
Be polite, kind, clean, compassionate. Be gentle, cheerful, helpful, and hopeful. Show love, mercy, respect, and concern. Bring these attributes with you wherever you go throughout the entire world. In other words -- when on Earth, do as the Earthlings do.
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