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!
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!