And five other ways to revive civility in our communities

Paying it forward through a Redbox rental

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 11:30am

    From road rage to political discourse, in today’s society the rise of incivility, both online and in person, has become the new norm, leaving many wondering, is basic courtesy, respect and kindness a thing of the past? In a poll released in 2016, nearly 70 percent of Americans felt political incivility has reached crisis levels.

    Maybe we’re a little more insulated from it in Maine, where largely, the unspoken appeal of living here is the civility of most people.

    It surprises folks visiting from away how welcoming people here are, whether it’s getting a “hello” from strangers on the street or engaging in pleasant transactions with those behind the counter.

    Last year The National Institute of Civil Discourse even chose Maine among four states to work on a project that helps citizens revive civility with in-person “Civility Kick-Off” events.

    That said, we’re human and we can all let a bad moment or a bad day get to us. Summer or leaf-peeping traffic and road rage is always a problem. Tensions and spats break out on social media quite frequently and even in our small towns, rude encounters can plague one’s day.

    In recent weeks, Midcoast Message Board, the virtual water cooler for some 22,000 members locally, has cropped up with posts of random acts of kindness.

    “Went to get a movie from Redbox for tonight, and $4 and this note was inside my case!” wrote Brittany Louise, of Morrill. The note tucked inside the DVD cover read: “Snacks on me—enjoy!”

    “Swear To God, only in Maine,” wrote one commenter to the post, which received 42 shares.

    “Will definitely be paying it forward,” wrote Louise.

    “Paying it forward”—responding to someone's kindness by doing a good deed for someone else—is an old concept; but, with the Redbox example, it took on a new technological twist. (For those who have never rented a movie through Redbox; it is a big red kiosk outside most grocery stores. With payment from a credit or debit card, you receive a DVD of your choice of a movie within a plastic case. Here is an easy tutorial).

    Those movies, when returned in the slot, will sit in the kiosk until the next person rents them. It’s easy to stick a couple of bucks inside the plastic sleeve and a note, knowing that a local person will benefit from that kind gesture. 97ZOK Radio even did a short video showing how to do it.

    Without anyone making a big deal of it, the ”pay it forward” concept in the Midcoast continues to get traction in a variety of ways. Other random acts of kindness reported on Midcoast Message Board included people returning wallets to stores that they’d found in shopping carts in the parking lot; strangers paying for coffee or donuts ahead in the drive-through lane, so that the next person to drive up gets a free treat, and paying for someone’s lunch and then leaving the restaurant without letting him or her know.

    Here are five “pay it forward” ways to keep your Karma golden and revive the civility (not just in yourself) but in the fabric of this entire community.

    1. If after leaning on the horn, frustrated with a slow driver in front of you and flipping him or her the bird—

    The next time you’re at a toll booth, pay the toll of the person behind you.


    2. If leaving a particularly nasty review on Yelp about a local restaurant you were disappointed with—

    Delete the review and the next time you have exemplary customer service somewhere, make sure you make a point of telling that person’s manager.


    3. If catching yourself making a derogatory comment about someone’s looks—

    Write a positive note and stick it in the pocket of a pair of jeans in a department or thrift store.


    4. If you’ve ever grumbled about being in a long line when you were in a hurry—

    Let someone go in front of you in the grocery line who may have as many items as you, but looks in a hurry.


    5. If you ever denigrated someone’s opinion online in a heated or politically charged conversation—

    Delete your post. And if you see someone who waits on you frequently (i.e. at the post office, convenience store, or grocery store) make a point of learning that person’s name and using it the next time.

    If reviving civility means paying attention to our own negative daily behaviors and correcting them or paying them forward, it goes a long way toward keeping our Maine communities evolved while the world changes around us.

    Ideas courtesy

     Kay Stephens can be reached at