I remember growing up in our small town and all the old dear hearts and gentle people who lived there. You know who I am talking about, that kind old gentlemen or women who used to pat you on the head and give you a quarter. You have known them your entire life and never in all that time did you ever hear a harsh word come out of their mouth. Do you remember those kinder gentler times? Do you yearn for a return to that civility?

Author Robert Fulghum addressed today’s culture and its general lack of courtesy and politeness this way: “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten . . . Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people . . . Say you’re sorry when you hit somebody”. Mr. Fulghum then mentioned that the world would be a better place if everyone lived by these basic principles. This sandbox wisdom is pretty simple, it’s all about gentleness.

Gentleness—mildness of manners or disposition—is too often lacking in our rude and abrasive world. Gentleness—not to be confused with weakness or a lack of resolve—is a trait of character we all could use more of. Gentleness doesn’t come naturally. Gentleness is something virtuous men and women must learn.

Becoming gentle is not easy. Sometimes gentleness comes with great difficulty and through harrowing circumstances.

Gentleness is not the way of this world. Ours is an age that is marked by hostility and malice, rather than compassion and reasonableness. It is steeped in the doctrine of cutthroat competition. Our children are indoctrinated into the society of competitiveness from their first day of grade school.

Fair, ethical and friendly competition can produce a superior product for the money, but, when abused, competition can exact a great price in human relationships. Vicious and unfair competition can reduce man from a creature of potential gentleness to a product of social Darwinism. The strongest, most competitive survive. Conglomerates and cartels consume small, family-owned businesses. Where is all this competition leading us?

Nowadays, even our speech is too harsh, adversely affecting our relationships. The tongue can divide and destroy. Mortimer B. Zuckerman, editor of U.S. News & World Report, wrote: “In these fraught times, our rhetoric must be toned down, our words more carefully weighed . . .” Can you spin your words to make them softer and still get the point across?

Society should know virtuous men and women by their gentleness. I think we all would like to live in a kinder, gentler world. That can happen if you become that gentle man or woman who is known for kind words, gentle pats on the head, and giving away quarters to kids (with inflation it might need to be a dollar now!).