Normally, my husband has the honor to write a monthly column for the Morning News. However, this month I am substituting for him as the Citizen Columnist.

Several weeks ago, we were on a trip and happened to stop in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at a WaWa gas station to only purchase gas. What took place during 15 minutes has prompted me to write this article.

We pulled into the gas station and picked a pump site. There was a car in front of us with a person sitting in the driver’s seat. We patiently sat there for probably about five minutes with no movement coming from the car in front of us. I suggested that I would get out of the car and go talk to the individual, but my husband said to stay in the car.

My husband then flicked his lights at the car. Still no movement. My husband then blew his horn. Now, that did get some movement.

A very large, burly man got out of the front seat of the car and came back to our car. My husband rolled down the window a little, and out of the mouth of this man came the question: “Why the … are you honking your horn at me?”

We explained we were waiting to get gas. We decided to go to another pump. We filled the car with gas, and when we left, he was still sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting for someone or something while still parked at the same pump.

Having been a resident of Virginia for 20-plus years, to say the least, we were very taken back by the lack of civility of this man and his use of the English language. Never, and I mean never, has either one of us come across behavior like this. It prompted me to do a little research and reflect on what is happening in our society in this 21st century.

The word civility has a Latin root: civilis, which means citizen. The Lexicon dictionary defines it as politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.

At, civility is the demonstration of respect for people and society. It includes working productively with people to seek common ground and being able to disagree without disrespect. It includes manners and politeness, tolerance, respect, benefit of doubt, civil dialogue, taking the high road, political participation, diligence and volunteerism.

Civility is a type of social capital that is a basis for economic performances and quality of life of a nation, region or city.

Civility should exist in the family between a husband and wife, parents and children, between familial relatives, between co-workers, between friends, between each other as citizens of this country.

Our first president, George Washington, understood the importance of civility at a very young age. He wrote numerous manuscripts that are in the Library of Congress. Two of those manuscripts contain school exercises written before he was 16 years old. One of them is dedicated to mathematics. The second is devoted to legal forms and several poems, and the last 10 pages have 110 rules of civility and decent behavior in company and conversation.

My past 10 years living in South Carolina have shown me a civility among its citizens. Children are taught from a very early age to respond with a yes or no, ma’am, or a no or yes, sir. The use of thank you and please is always there, and always a friendly hello or a wave from a car.

One of Virginia’s slogan is “Virginia is where the South begins.” I think it needs to rethink that slogan.

As I was a child growing up, there were some words you never said, unless you wanted your tongue to meet a bar of soap, or even worse, the bottle of hot sauce. Has the word that rhymes with truck become a common word in everyday communication?

Another word that has crept into everyday vocabulary rhymes with itch. In looking for a birthday gift, I was rather taken back by bracelets sold on Etsy that were identified as the best … bracelet or the best … … bracelet.

Hollywood, television and the music industry have promoted the use of these words and profanity in general. Just look or listen to some of the lyrics that are in today’s modern music. Are these words now part of our 21st-century civility?

My sincerest hope is that we as a society continue to have civility. We all have a responsibility to have civility in both our actions and speech.

Once we lose civility, we lose our country.

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The wife of citizen columnist Tom Sheehy, Michelene Sheehy moved to Florence from Fairfax, Virginia, nine years ago. Married for 48 years, she is the mother of two sons and four grandchildren. She was a high school math teacher, Georgetown University’s budget director, Catholic University’s associate vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer. She is a past president and treasurer of the Florence Symphony Guild, past vice president of the Wildwood Garden Club and a past member of the Florence Symphony Orchestra board. She loves gardening, arts, crafts and floral designing.