I've spent the last several Friday nights downtown at the Arkansas Dream Center hanging out with girls ages 4-11. Each week we've talked about the different aspects of being a princess of God. Since I first saw the curriculum, I couldn't wait for this past Friday. I knew I wanted to take ownership of that evening and be the one to talk about etiquette.
My mom, for a few summers, hosted etiquette classes in our home for girls ages 9-11. They were so much fun! We learned all kinds of things - where your name tag goes, rules to shaking hands, how to sit in a chair, how to get into a car, how to eat a multiple course meal, how to do the whole standing/eating/buffet thing, how to fold napkins into really neat shapes... Many of us who attended those classes have found ourselves in formal situations where we were incredibly grateful someone had taught us which fork to use, how you're actually supposed to butter bread, and which direction the serving plates should be passed.
As I conducted my first etiquette class, I wish we had been videotaping. While some of the girls were a little too distracted by the salt and pepper shakers I'd saran-wrapped closed, I loved watching the others as they learned the different places and reasons behind how to place their silverware, why salt and pepper are always passed together, and when the correct time to start eating is.
As I recapped the evening with David after returning home, he replied, "Most people don't follow all the rules of etiquette even if they know them."
As I prepared for this lesson, I was reminded of how our actions reflect those who've influenced us, and I'm not just referring to table manners. Maybe your parents didn't model good behavior or good decision making in an aspect of their life. But, it doesn't mean their children have to follow in those foot steps. If someone else can provide an example of how it should be, that model can be adopted and applied.
We joke because my brother Paul, although never an official attendant of the manners classes, knows all the rules of etiquette too. While he would sit at the top of the stairs above the kitchen listening for when he could come down to steal a piece of cake, he absorbed all the proper rules of etiquette. Just because he wasn't formally instructed, it didn't stop him from adopting and applying the etiquette he'd learned.
Before teaching my etiquette lesson, I bought a copy of Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. I knew that I remembered enough information on my own to create the lesson, but I still felt it necessary to consult the handbook on etiquette in case I'd forgotten something. It's easy to laugh at some of the situations presented to Miss Manners via letters posing questions as to how one should respond to those situations. Many situations were irrelevant to me. But, one day I might be glad to have learned how to address certain dignitaries - you never know whose path you might cross.
Likewise, maybe life is okay for you right now. You've got a good handle on things all on your own. You know how to cope with your anxiety or depression or stress level in what you believe is a healthy manner. Your way is working for you. You don't need to consult anything else for help or a reminder on how things actually should be. If things change, maybe then you'll seek out someone else's guidance and assistance.
I'm beginning to learn that it's a lot easier to handle the curve balls of life if we've already read the handbook. And the great news is, most of us have at least one copy of the handbook in our homes already.
The Bible covers a wide range of topics from which we can glean insight if perhaps we didn't have a good model growing up, or maybe a situation we're facing today isn't a situation we've ever witnessed or personally experienced.
When my lesson was all over, some of the other adult women asked me how I knew so much about etiquette. I answered, "My mom taught etiquette classes when I was younger, so a lot of things I learned from her. Other things I know because I've read the Miss Manner's book."
Even if we've had good examples, it's important to read the handbook. We can't expect life to stay the same or for our circumstances and opportunities to never change. I may never need to apply any of the weird etiquette rules I know, but if the event arises, it's comforting to know that I'll be prepared.
Likewise, I know I will experience far more than I can imagine during the rest of my life and reading God's handbook (The Bible) helps me be more prepared for the seasons that will come.
"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105