Help stem the tide of negative behavior

Published 1:10 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

Column: Ann Austin, Guest Column

Remember the Golden Rule? One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. Or as it has been expanded to the Platinum Rule: Treat others how they would like to be treated.

Ann Austin

Since we were children, we have heard stories aligned with this idea. Aesop’s fables, especially, showed how one act of kindness could tame the largest of beasts. “The Lion and the Mouse” is an example. This story told of a mouse that was trapped by a lion. As the lion was about to eat the mouse, he convinced the lion to let him go. The mouse later saved the lion by gnawing away ropes that hunters had trapped him with. The lion discovered this little mouse was a great friend to him. We never know what one act of kindness will result in.

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As we enter the world and its chaos, kindness is not always apparent. In our race to the top, to get more money, recognition and power, we are led to believe the values we were taught in our youth no longer apply.

But something is lost when we forget the Golden Rule. Our world slowly begins to change around us to one where people are no longer expressing kindness and appreciation for each other. We see this in our media — in how political campaigns are run, reality TV and how we choose to focus on conflict, rather than resolving our differences. Incivility is becoming a norm.

We must choose civility.

In his book titled “Choosing Civility,” P.M. Forni expresses this thought: “When we are on the receiving end of an act of kindness, we feel validated. We translate that act into a very simple, very powerful unspoken message to ourselves: I am not alone, I have value and my life has meaning.”

Forni lists 25 rules (in addition to the Golden Rule) that we should recognize in our lives. They include: acknowledge others, think the best of others, listen, speak kindly, respect others’ opinions, refrain from idle complaints and respect the environment and be gentle to animals.

The goal of this campaign is to build a sustainable program that will engage the community and reinforce the belief that, given a chance, simple courtesies and kindness can change a community. Forni states: “Through civility we develop thoughtfulness, foster effective self-expression and communication…civility allows us to connect successfully with others.”

Our intent is to connect with businesses, organizations and individuals to help them link into the campaign and encourage a culture of kindness. It is only through this outreach that we can reverse the cycles of fear, anger, regret, sadness and help people emerge with a new understanding of how to connect to each other.

Several events are planned for October and November including:

Thursday: Candlelight Vigil, New Denmark Park, 6:30 p.m., led by Crime Victim’s Crisis Center

Oct. 15: Film “Daddy and Papa” at Riverland Community College, in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission and Paths to Peace. Starting time is 7 p.m.

Oct. 28: Anti-Bully Walk, 1 to 2 p.m. registration; 2 to 5 p.m. walk; 5 to 8 p.m. fun and food.

Oct. 30: “Power of Words” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Topic will be “Deliberate Civility and Speak Out.” In collaboration with Rochester’s Diversity Council and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce

Nov. 19: Film “Papers” at Riverland Community College, in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission and Paths to Peace. Starting time is 7 p.m.

Also watch for a book read this winter — more information will be provided through Albert Lea Public Library.

Be part of changing the norm; help stem the tide of negativity. Choose civility. Join us and share your message with our community. You can make a difference.

If you are interested in learning more about the “Choose Civility” movement, would like a presentation to your group or service club, or would like to join in with the efforts, contact Peggy Havener at the Albert Lea Public Library: 377-4355. Or visit to watch YouTube presentations and learn more about local efforts.

Kindness is contagious. Choose civility.


Albert Lea resident Ann Austin is a member of the Choose Civility Steering Committee, which is under the auspices of the Albert Lea Public Library.