She’s got style. She’s got grace. She’s a lady. 

I met a lady last week. One who made me suddenly more aware of my own presentation. She smiled warmly and greeted me professionally, but graciously and sweetly, too, as if she could pull me into a hug at any moment and the gesture would be entirely proper. 

She embodied the charm of a true Southern lady in a way that instantly reminded me of the grace and class my grandmother always possessed. If she’d been wearing clip-on flower earrings and kitten heels, I’d have been transported back in time.

It was a pretty afternoon so I walked to the lady’s house for what I assumed would be a routine weekly story assignment. If I slouched tiredly before meeting her, however, I definitely stood a little straighter walking back to the office after our delightful conversation. I remembered to cross my legs at the ankle rather than the knee and made direct eye contact for that interview. 

Most young women my age roll their eyes or sigh loudly at the thought of putting forth more effort at being genteel  — polite, refined and polished. 

Who has time to be gracious or a proper hostess when there are bills to pay, laundry to wash and babies to feed? There definitely isn’t a moment to spare waiting for our men to open a car door or push in the chair at the dinner table, and goodness knows we’d rather do all the driving. How else would we get “there” on time? (I earned the nickname Jeff Gordon in high school).

Those of us with lofty career goals rush through a week focused on accomplishing our work tasks with professionalism and excellence, and the most effort we put into appearance is proper work attire.  I confess ironing has never become part of my routine. I buy work clothes that could be wadded up on the floor and shaken out ‘presto!’ for round two if needed in a pinch.

But, I accepted her proffered glass of cold lemonade and forced myself to slow down. 

I’m so glad I did.

I paused, spoke slowly and thoughtfully, and listened intently to what she had to say, too. Suddenly, I realized how rushed I’ve become. There’s something to be done every moment of every day and while I pride myself on superb multi-tasking abilities, I’ve clearly let some of the finer  — perhaps even more important  — things slip.

Listening and consideration of others may be the most tragic loss to society as genteelism and good manners have fallen by the wayside. We’re too busy making our own opinions heard (as if we’re the experts) and give little credence to others. 

Why? 

Not because we wouldn’t agree with, or at least understand, their point of view, but because we don’t value them enough to stop and listen.

Ouch.

I walked back to my office amazed at what a classy lady was able to teach me without saying a word. Her presence and mannerisms alone had compelled me to respond in kind. It’s a lesson I hope not to forget for years to come.

So, yes, Ms. Sara Rollison. A lunch date in the near future would be lovely. I’ll definitely be picking up the tab.

And thanks again for reminding me the value of acting like a lady.

• Sarah Tarr Gove is news editor of The Blackshear Times. Email her at sgove@theblacksheartimes.com.