DECEMBER 13, 1943
WASHINGTON, Sunday—Yesterday, my daughter and I attended the National Housing Association luncheon. Various people spoke well on their different points of view. I had promised to answer some questions which Brigadier-General U. S. Grant, 3rd, asked me. Then I was moved to ask a question of Mr. Waverly Taylor, since this was an occasion on which different points of view were being expressed and one could disagree amicably.
In the afternoon a lady came to see me, who for twenty years of her life had worked in Europe in theatres for children. She is now living in this country and felt we would be interested in developing a theatre for youth here. I fear very much, however, she is doomed to disappointment, since we are not ready to accept art as the responsibility of the community, rather than as a commercial venture.
A number of people have been writing me lately, some in sorrow and some in wrath, because they say manners in this country seem to be deteriorating. Some people complain of one group of citizens, some of another. Some people tell me they go into shops in our city and the girls behind the counter pay no attention to them, and, finally, if they say anything, the girls look haughtily at them and ask: "Don't you know there is a war on?"
Others tell me they can buy no food, the crowds are so great. Finally, they give me examples of occurrences which go far beyond rudeness. It is easy, of course, to blame everything on the war. We know all of us are affected these days by the tensions in the atmosphere in which we live. Thousands of people are worried about their loved ones. Thousands of people are doing unaccustomed work. Many people are doing without things which they are accustomed to having.
Everyday life is more difficultt for us, but for that very reason all of us should watch our manners. When we are tempted to say a quick word, or to let ourselves go—thinking it will make us feel better afterwards—we must remember that other people feel just as badly as we do. One person wrote me the other day that, if we only realized we received from life what we put into it, she was quite sure that our attitudes would change.
If we really accepted the fact that kindness begets kindness, and consideration begets consideration—which it often does—we would still have to accept the fact that often it doesn't. It is still the people who have the most self-control, who return the soft word, even when they feel they are in the right, who make the real contribution to a world in which peace may be possible in the future.