Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
April 22, 2001
The other day I ran into a string of nice people. Everywhere I went people were friendly. Even strangers smiled. One man held the door open for me and insisted that I go ahead of him in the check-out line.
I wondered what was wrong. Had I suddenly begun to look so old and decrepit that people were deferring to me as they would to a tottering old lady? I visited a menís room to take a look at myself. No, that is not the reason. I still looked as vibrant and youthful as ever.
Puzzled, I searched for an explanation. Perhaps they all knew me. They were being nice because they recognized how distinguished and important I am. I smiled at how quickly that idea disappeared; it lasted about as long as a snowball in you know where.
So why were people being nice? Had I failed to notice that this was our national "Be Nice to Everybody Day"? Surely I would have heard about it if that were the case.
Finally I had to admit that it was obviously a coincidence. All the people I had come across had simply been nice by choice. And I was the beneficiary of their niceness.
Being pleasant instead of disagreeable is, of course, a choice. Each of us makes that choice dozens of times a day. And the people we encounter are affected by our choices. Generally we respond in kind. Be grumpy to someone and that person will usually return the favor.
Interestingly, we are all pretty much alike. If someone is clearly irritable without provocation, the other person will be offended and withhold any cheerful response that might have been forthcoming. So in a sense we get what we give, tit for tat. Grouchy begets crabby, so to speak.
It is possible, though I admit it is difficult, to break the cycle and offer a good-natured response to someone who has been obnoxious to you. The offender may be shocked by your kindness, but it could stimulate some honest reflection and soul-searching after you have walked away. And that may result in a changed attitude. At least you can hope for that.
That being the case, it seems possible for us to create a better world, one person at a time. Be nice to others, even casual acquaintances and strangers, and most often you generate pleasant responses. Even when you donít, you can at least know you tried.
So give it a try. Be nice to everyone you meet today. See how many smiles you can produce by offering one first to every person whose path you cross today. It beats being sullen. And who knows, even old Grumpy may decide to smile before the sun goes down if he meets enough nice people. One thingís for sure: you can be one if you are willing.
If Socrates never said it, let me be the first to say it: in a world like ours, a little niceness goes a long way. (What? You say "niceness" is not in the dictionary? Well, then, add it; it seems like a very nice word to me.)