It all began with a movie pass

After moving to an urban area from a small city in 2006, I began noticing how the please’s and thank you’s, the cordial greetings and friendly goodbye’s, were missing from my daily interactions.  When I went to the grocery store, my smile was greeted with irritability or fear; when I drove, I noticed that everyone was in a hurry, and manners flew out the window along with the awareness of the speed limit.  I found myself succumbing to this attitude, angry that no matter how hard I tried to be friendly with people they rarely responded in kind.  Was it just living in a big city? Had I missed these nuances in my old town?

One day on my college campus, I tried to give away a movie pass to someone that I couldn’t use (a free screening pass for a summer blockbuster that would be released in a few days). I used all my social charms: smiles, non-aggressive approaches, friendly demeanor, but nothing worked. No one would ask more, or inquire why I was giving it away. They looked at me like I was nuts–I might as well have been giving away polio!  Frustrated, I lost my patience and yelled, “What the f*&k is wrong with people!??” Though the anger lasted only a moment, it was enough to bring me incredible amounts of shame. I had bankrupted my investment in social courtesy; I had lost hope that my niceness would be received positively. But even more, I wondered how it became so impossible to do a good deed–something as simple as treating a few friends to a free movie.

Shutting down the desire to be friendly in order to fit into the prevailing status quo had not worked for me. It had only brought out the very worst in me. So I made two new goals: be friendly and courteous to those around me, and be more aware and verbally appreciative when others were friendly and courteous with me.

Instantly, my days improved. My shopping trips were sprinkled with little pleasant exchanges in the aisle; I managed to make my dazed cashier chuckle and smile at me; I had a return on my “driving karma”–convenient parking spaces abound!

With a change in attitude and the return of my positive mentality came this project.

At first it was the pamphlet–meant to remind people that it is easy, and often-times rewarding, to be nice. It makes all those menial tasks–all those things you try to get through so you can go home and relax–a little more bearable and sometimes enlightening. But then it evolved into this blog, and more distributed objects. I plan to continue this project for the foreseeable future, since I imagine we can always use more ideas of being nice or ways of handling similar situations to those which I experience. I base most of my entries on personal experiences, but also include stories I hear from friends as well. Write me any time through my contact link!

Hopefully this blog makes a difference for people, makes them think about how they float through their days. Hopefully you enjoy it, and thanks always for reading!

About me:

I am a visual artist currently living in upstate New York with my husband Jake and our house plants. I like to cook, watch movies, and read fiction in addition to making new acquaintances and reading cool art stuff. Recently, I’m also a HUGE fan of pod casts–they are very informative! I’m not a “fan” of exercise, but I like how I feel when I’m done, so I still do it. My next undertaking: gardening and learning to cook Middle Eastern food. Yum!

7 thoughts on “It all began with a movie pass

  1. I kind of stumbled upon our blog today and I must confess, I like it.

    An act of love meant for one becomes two. “Pass it on.” :)

  2. Fantastic mission you are on! I really like your approach and reflections on being kind in the every-day encounters. I am very interested in that same mission, just currently at the side of the world, and have just started writing a blog concerning social change – how we create a better tomorrow. My last entry was on whether everyone is a changemaker, which many authors and practitioners within the social entrepreneurial field believe. Are we all changemakers? I think so, seen from the approach that you also presents. Because, these every-day encounters when doing them with kindness, seems to spread like rings in the water, right? The person being nice, getting a good response from the other person will thereafter most likely be even more prone to ‘be nice;’ it grows exponentially, perhaps. And the other person to whom you were kind, will perhaps also be kinder to the next person they interact with. And so it carries on. Isn’t that changemaking potential? In what you write above you remind me of something equally crucial, from the story of how it was difficult to ‘be allowed to do something nice’, that we must also allow others to be kind to us and be open and aware to receive those small, meaningful daily acts of kindness. Thank you for your writing and reflections.

  3. It usually is a culture shock for anyone moving from smaller cities to a larger metropolis. It’s difficult to reorient ones grasp on reality to accommodate for all the hustle and varied interests beyond what is comfortable from your natural surroundings. 
    It’s much like the discomfort felt by religious preachers who finally have an awakening to truth and nature. Like you, they must adjust their personal loss of faith with alternate means of helping humanity. 
    Such challenges often create depression, which is responsible for the undesired effects of anger and frustration. It’s a tribute to your strength of character that you were able to restore your positive frame of mind alone, many cannot. Luckily perhaps, that you had no other pressing issues that make existence intolerable, many do not. In any event your spirited revival, a smile and a little mutual respect is what humanity requires to get through the day. Kudos!

    • Thank you for your insight and compliments Al. I agree, I was especially lucky to transform my feelings into something productive. It has been a tremendous growth process doing this project – I am so grateful I was taken out of my comfort zone! :-)

  4. Being nice makes no money. People think that there is no currency in being nice, thus, they invest no resources. People in the 21st century seem to be very machiavellian (sp?) and self-serving. The ends justify the means. If people are going to be nice, it better be worth something. Does anyone have any examples of situations in which “being nice” paid off?

    • I can attest to many times when being kind, courteous, “nice,” thoughtful, or caring has paid off. Free desserts at restaurants, $20 (I tried to refuse) for helping some elderly women with their car at a rest stop, favors, a discounted bill on my wedding when many could not make it due to a nasty flu virus, support (my Kickstarter was funded by many strangers who believed in the idea of being nice – their gift was rather generous)….

      Perhaps for some people being nice is a means to an end, but for many being nice/positive is the way they approach the world. While the reward for outward kindness and goodness may not be directly given, the rewards have a way of finding you. Sometimes it comes as a result of one’s character being consistently well-intentioned, civil and considerate, rather than as a result of particular actions. When people put out goodness, it is given in return. While they may reap the rewards, most are nice and good out of the nature of their being, rather than with some personal gain in mind.

      One might argue each person is selfish or self-serving no matter how altruistic. Perhaps then, the question is: does how you serve yourself also serve others in a proactive and positive way? That is, I believe, what truly matters.

      Thanks for the comment Zora Ann.

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