Sunday, January 03, 2021

Looking back at another year of doing the right thing

A year ago, as I sat down to look back at the previous year's Right Thing columns, I couldn't have imagined what 2020 had in store or the range of topics I'd be covering over the course of the year.

As I do at the end of each year, I looked back at the 52 or so columns I've written to gauge the scope of topics about which I've written, the types of concerns readers share, and how I might do better in the coming year. I also assess which columns seemed to draw the most attention from readers by looking at the analytics for the website where the weekly column gets posted after it has run in publications that subscribe to it.

Gauging reader interest gives me a sense of the types of ethical issues seem most important to readers in their day-to-day lives.

In 2020, the five most-viewed columns touched on kindness, the importance of stories to remember those we've lost, decency, and thankfulness.

The fifth-most-viewed column, "Be kind when no one is looking," ran in January. It recounted how a reader's mindset was completely reframed after a barista asked about her day and comped her a cup of coffee and a day later a stranger tapped on her car window as she was parking to let her know she'd fed the meter for her. "Kindness is powerful," the reader wrote.

The fourth-most-viewed column, "Being kind, taking care of others is even more important now," ran in March just after the beginning of the pandemic. In it, I told the story of how an airline service agent and the property manager of the assisted living center in Minnesota where my ailing father lived went out of their ways to assist me as travel and visitation became challenging during the early days of the pandemic.

My May 12 column, "Our stories keep loved ones' memories alive," ran shortly after my father died. In it I wrote of how it is the stories told by those still living that keep the memories of those we've lost alive.

April's, "We do what we can to be decent," was my second most-viewed column. The story focused on how each of us looked for ways to bring normalcy and decency to our lives and those of others as many of us shifted to working, learning, or living remotely.

Finally, the most-viewed column of the year, "Even in times like these, we have reasons to be thankful," ran in November shortly after my sister died. In the column, I recounted how thankful I was for her presence in my life and for the weekly Zoom chats I had with her each Sunday at 5 p.m. for months. I wrote of how it felt like the right thing for each of us to embrace those things for which we can be grateful without losing sight of the many challenges that remain.

Thank you, as always, for continuing to email me your questions and stories and for your unabating willingness to read and respond to The Right Thing column. May your focus on kindness and decency continue to guide you through any challenging months ahead, and may your year be full of doing the right thing while surrounded by those in your life who choose to do the same.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin. 


1 comment:

Darrell Vandervort said...

Beautiful words for a difficult year.
Darrell Vandervort