It might seem like a small thing—picking up after yourself—but when you’re a rising NFL star, even small acts can have large effects. Consider what happened when Dak Prescott, rookie quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, was caught on camera during a game with the Ravens, doing what too few people do these days: picking up some trash that he’d aimed at a trash can and missed throwing in.
Sitting on the sidelines, Prescott noticed that the crumpled up cup he’d tossed in the garbage had missed its mark. He quickly picked it up and tossed it in the can, probably not realizing that the brief action was caught on camera (and then tweeted by a CBS sports journalist).
It may seem small but this video says a lot about Dak Prescott. pic.twitter.com/kzUNRKP5bb
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 20, 2016
Although some commenters offered snarky remarks to the sports journalist’s story about Prescott, most were surprisingly positive, noting that Prescott’s small act showed he was a “class act,” and noting how moments of everyday virtue speak to a person’s character.
As the reporter who posted the brief snippet of video noted, “At the very least, it tells you Prescott’s the type of guy who does the right thing even when he thinks that no one’s looking (although in his life everyone is probably always looking) and it tells you he has a serious attention to detail.”
It’s also a reminder of the need for manners and civility in everyday life—even if everyday life involves sitting on the sidelines of a professional football field during a nationally televised game. And not just with littering (which is a chronic problem—so much so that recently, a Minneapolis artist made a short film about it which was then screened in movie theaters throughout the city).
The Wall Street Journal recently asked a group of experts to weigh in on manners, and most agreed that it’s the little things that matter most, and that at the root of manners is respect for others. Which might be why a writer for New York magazine was recently forced to reconsider his eagerness to manners-shame strangers when he found himself yelling at a mother and her child on a crowded subway.
Manners become even more important at the holidays (particularly after a difficult election when your wacky aunt tries to engage you in a debate over the merits of Clinton or Trump). Even Miss Manners has been inundated with advice-seekers wondering how to behave with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table this year.
One suggestion? Be more like Prescott, whose manners are so ingrained that they seem automatic. Like football, cultivating good manners requires lots of practice. Why not start now?