If you know anything about Canada, you probably know that it’s cold, we love hockey, and everyone is polite. That’s the stereotype you see on TV and in movies, and I’m OK with it. We do have a lot of snow (though most of us live down here near the southern border), I do love hockey (especially during the Olympics), and I say “thank you” to the driver when I get off the bus.

I didn’t know, until a friend recently visited from DC, that people don’t do this in America. She was shocked and slightly amused that everybody on the bus, even the crowd exiting through the back door, calls out a friendly “thank you!” to the driver. “Thank you” and “please” and “sorry” are so commonplace where I live that I barely know the words are coming out of my mouth. That habit doesn’t make those words less meaningful; it makes life easier.

Canadians are polite because that’s how we get through a world that doesn’t always care about other people. It’s how we let others know “I see you. I acknowledge you.” If I can make someone’s day better, with a little effort on my part, I will. Because I hope that when I need to be seen, when I need a better day, someone will be there to hold the door open for me.