Today was full of opportunities to be nice, and I took them. I allowed other drivers to merge easily in front of me, and gave them a wave and a smile, instead of a scowl and the finger. I offered borderline students feedback on how to revise their last essay of the semester, and the opportunity to re-submit the assignment. I paid for the breakfast of the student standing behind me on the cafeteria line. It felt good to see everyone’s surprised smiles. However, these daily acts have made me think a lot about “niceness”, and that has unsettled me.
This daily challenge was supposed to be a fun, goofy way to get me posting on my blog every day. How hard could it be to toss a few dollars to the homeless, buy some non-perishables for the church food pantry, or hold the elevator for my neighbor with the deadly body odor? These acts are not difficult, but they’re also not “nice” if I’m harboring resentment, cursing under my breath, or doing a Norman-Bates-Psycho pantomime behind the recipient’s back. If my goal is to become nice-Nancy, I have to be fully engaged in the moment and the act, not just sleepwalk through it. Sort of like training for a race: I have to sweat the miles, go through some pain, and acknowledge my weaknesses if I want to make it to and beyond the finish line.
It’s humbling to assess myself so honestly, and admit how lazy and stingy I’d become about being generous. I was meting out my niceness like a sacred candy stash, bit by bit, and only to those who might be worthy. No candy tastes sweet if I’m stuck alone with it, suffering the post-sugar-rush crash, tooth decay, and muffin top by myself.
Who thought this little experiment would lead to such deep thoughts and reflection? I certainly didn’t. It can be humiliating to reveal so much, but I believe it’s something we all go through. If I share what I learn, and it can be of use to someone else, maybe that’s nice too.