Do You Treat Others, Even Strangers, with Courtesy?

Jane Jenkins Herlong
Author, Speaker, and Humorist, Jane Jenkins Herlong

I like to say, “A stranger is a friend, or a customer, you have not met yet.” My friend Jane Jenkins Herlong is a humorist, speaker, and author.  You may have enjoyed her comedy and songs on Sirius XM Radio and Pandora. I share this story from her book, Bare Feet to High Heels – You Don’t Have to be a Beauty Queen to be a Beautiful Person. Jane reminds us to treat others, even those we have not met yet, with courtesy.

Hey, Sweet Thang!
by Jane Jenkins Herlong

Every time I hear the words, “sweet thing,” I think of my pal, Red. One hot July day in the little town of Gaffney at the South Carolina Peach Festival, I met Big Red.

It‘s right easy to catch a visual on this one … Big Red. First of all, you know he is big, and second, his hair is a deep shade of Tang. With a name like his, you can bet he is packaged extra friendly.

I heard Red, not to be confused with heard of, before I ever saw him. A blast from an “ooohga horn” heralded his entrance onto Main Street in Gaffney, South Carolina. Around the corner, Red maneuvered his late-model white Cadillac with blood red, leather interior. Before I knew it, he was swinging queens around, calling us all “sweet thang” and handing out packs of Big Red chewing gum and silver dollars.

Everyone was pretty much running for cover except me. He may have acted like a bulldog, but to me Red was all puppy. We wrote each other several times, and he sent me pictures of himself posing with Playboy bunnies at various NASCAR events. We were both looking forward to seeing each other at the Miss Southern 500 Pageant.

Labor Day weekend arrived and all of us queens met in Darlington, South Carolina, for the festival. The director of the pageant warned us about a pesky character who loved beauty queens. I thought, Well, that takes care the entire male population.

Miss South Carolina, Jane Jenkins Herlong
Miss South Carolina, Jane Jenkins Herlong

The director said, “His name is Red Robinson. Do not speak to him. Speaking to him may keep you from winning the title of “Miss Southern 500.” What? Not sweet, innocent Red. No way was I going to avoid him.

Minutes later, I heard Red wheeling his white Cadillac through the parade route trying to find me. I hopped down off my float and gave him a big ol’ hug.

Fast forward with me, one year later. It is Saturday morning we are in TV rehearsals at The Greenville Memorial Auditorium. That night, a new Miss South Carolina would be crowned. We were all clueless about who was in the lead except for the preliminary winners.

My thoughts were interrupted with a shout of, “Miss Charleston, telephone!” I thought that was weird since pageant contestants are never allowed to receive calls. Answering the phone, I heard the familiar, “Hey, there, Sweet Thang!” It was Red.

“Well, darlin’ I just talked to your chief judge. You see, me and him go way back. I told him you was a real sweet thang, and you had always been nice to me. I told him that he should pick you tonight to win. He told me you was gonna win, and so I just wanted to be the first to congratu late our new Miss South Carolina. Bye, now.”

I dropped the phone.

Red was the last person I thought would know one of the judges. Did it really make a difference in my winning the pageant? Probably not. It made me feel good, though, knowing I treated him like my parents taught me. Actually, Red taught me a lesson. You never know who will cross your path in life, so treat folks the same way you want to be treated regardless of who they are.

Bare Feet to High Heels by Jane Jenkins Herlong
“You don’t have to be a beauty queen to be a beautiful person.” – Jane Jenkins Herlong

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” – William Wordsworth

Humorist, Amazon “Best-Selling” author, speaker, and professional singer, Jane Jenkins Herlong, CSP finds the funny in dysfunction. Jane helps audiences confront negativity with grace and humor to increase performance and productivity as she did overcoming being labeled Dyslexic and other challenges. From the tomato fields of Johns Island, South Carolina to a Miss America runway and beyond, Jane’s funny original, Southern stories and award-winning singing helps audiences learn life-skills and the healing power of laughter when dealing with stressful issues thrown at their field of dreams. You will love this farm-girl’s Southern-style recipe for balancing your own personal journey with a sense of humor, hope and heaping helping of folksy wisdom. For more information visit:

Thank you Jane!

My brother, the legendary guitarist Robert Fripp, says, “Courtesy is an inward grace, which extends outwards to others.” Courtesy might be a given when we interact with friends and co-workers; let’s extend this to strangers, our customers and potential clients. “Are You Insulting Your Prospects?,” “Everyone Represents Your Company,” and “Customer Service Means Action” are just three of the many resources on to further help you and your team with customer service and sales.

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