Off to Watch Hill

A much much less hilly and tree-free version of my childhood country roads...(Click to link to image source: Cornbread blog)

My husband and I just returned from a mini-vacation to Connecticut, during which we ventured into the southwestern-most corner of Rhode Island to a spot called Watch Hill. I just have to say how very nice and considerate the drivers in that general area of RI were. More than once in the 1 or 2 hours we were there, RI drivers would pause in traffic to let us turn or pass through–even though they had the right of way!! It was wonderful! I don’t know if this is regular driving culture there, but it definitely didn’t happen in the other areas of New England that we explored this week. Though I will say, everyone was very friendly everywhere we went.

It reminded me of the country roads on which I grew up, and how passing another car on the gravel roads was so seldom that we always waved at each other when it happened. I wonder, what are the cool things that people in your community do that add a little “happy” into your day? Please share!

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Amicable Allegory #8: The right place at the right time

Have you ever had the feeling that your day worked out  exactly how it did  for a very particular reason? Like, when you forgot your coffee one morning, and found your stove burner still turned on when you went in to retrieve your drink? I like to think these are little ways God (or angels or spirits or the flying spaghetti monster) looks out for us, keeps us safe.

Well, I think I just had another one of those moments. My husband and I drove into NYC for the first time yesterday. Usually we take the train, but we have to go to Brooklyn in a few weeks by car, and wanted to do a “dry run” of the journey. Normally I would have tuckered out halfway into the drive (cars make me sleepy), but for some reason, I drove the first few hours without a problem.  We pulled into a rest-area to trade-off driving and fuel up. Even though we had to stop at the food plaza, I drove right past it to the fuel pumps without thinking. There was no lanes to return to the plaza, so while Jake pumped the gas, I ran in and used the ladies room, and when I returned, Jake ran in to use the men’s room. As I sat there waiting for him to come back, an older woman (I’m guessing late 60’s or so) asked me “Is there an attendant around? Do you think they check tire pressure here?” I told her I doubted it, but up ahead there was an air pump, so she could fill up her tires there. Dismayed, she said, “I have no idea how to do it. I just have a light in my car that says the tire pressure is low.” Without hesitation, I replied, “Well, when my husband gets back to the car, we can help you with the tires. We have a tire pressure gauge.” She was elated and very grateful, and I was equally happy we were there to help. When Jake returned, he quickly filled her tires (they all needed 10 pounds of pressure–good thing she stopped) and I chatted with her while we waited. She was impressed us “young people” were so helpful, and I said, “Oh, that’s just how I was raised,” and told her about the Be Nice. project. She asked for my contact information, so I gave her a pamphlet and postcard along with my information. She took me into her arms with a warm, joy-filled hug, and then took Jake’s hand and pressed something into it, thanking us heartedly. We told her no thanks was necessary–we were just happy to be of service, but she insisted we take what she gave us, no arguments allowed. It was a twenty dollar bill.

Jake and I were blown away by her enormous generosity and gratitude. She had said to us, “Not many people would have helped me, or even paid attention.”  And I thought, “Some people might have even taken advantage of the situation by swindling her or demanding money.” Jake and I were simply happy to help, without a single thought of a reward. The twenty dollars was an unexpected ( and unnecessary) bonus, and it got me thinking. [I’m not meaning this impending thought-stream in any negative way toward our wonderful new friend on the thruway. It just made me wonder….] Wasn’t there a time when people used to help others in need without expecting anything in return? I swear it was like that when I was a kid. Often a proper show of gratitude was a warm smile, a hug or a hand shake, an invitation to dinner, or a thank you note. But today, it seems like repayment or rewards are expected, and the standard currency for gratitude is money. I wonder how that came to be? Is an “I’ll do something, but not for nothing” mentality prevailing in our culture? (This mentality sounds a lot like the attitude, “I’ll give them a wedding gift, but only because they invited me to their party and they’re feeding me.”) Or, is the good feeling of doing what’s right not enough for some people any more?  There was certainly a time when a monetary show of thanks was unnecessary, possibly even offensive. But nowadays, there are people who feel resentment when they are not given “proper”, equivalent, or reciprocal thanks (i.e., a similarly priced gift, an invitation to an equally lavish event, or a monetary reward). What changed?

There are millions of people in the world who do give for the joy of giving, who help strangers because they like to do it. But what saddens me is that there are a large number of folks who give, but with an agenda or an expectation of similar repayment. When did we start keeping track of who-gave-what’s and who-owes-who? And can we find a way to free ourselves from that thinking? Because it costed me nothing but a little bit of time to help that fantastic woman, and it felt so great to know that God put me in just the right place to be able to do it. For me, that was worth more than anything.

Amicable Allegory #7: Lost, found, returned

My last post, “500 bucks richer for a poor person is related to this post, except that this post is a more positive version of the subject!  (On a side note, thanks to Autumn for her comment requesting more positive entries. Though it is my aim to promote positivity, sometimes I go about addressing positivity by deliberating on how I can handle less positive interactions. Thank you Autumn for the reminder that all things are good–in balance. So, on with the positive!)

Yesterday, I was picking up some items at the mall conversing (as always) with the sales ladies about random things.  One of the women told me of a day when she found a wallet in a parking lot with a moderate amount of money in it. She Facebooked the guy and arranged to return it to him, she told me.  I was so impressed–and encouraged, especially after the $500 woman last week! I asked the sales lady then if the man had given her a reward or anything.  She said “No, but he was a student and I bet he didn’t have much to spare. — But the next week I was on campus and I found a 100 dollar bill on the ground!  I thought to myself–this is what good deeds get you!”  I have to say, I totally agree! Wouldn’t it be great if that happened to all of us! 🙂

Have you ever been so focused on what you’re going to do next that you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing at that moment?  My friend had gone grocery shopping one afternoon this summer and returned all the way home with her thoughts on the tasks awaiting her there when she realized she had left her purse in the cart in the parking lot!  In a panic she flew back to the supermarket, all-the-while thinking of what she had in her purse that could be stolen or misused.  She quickly walked to the customer service desk, anxiety growing in her mind. She budged in line (I imagine this was a pretty justifiable budge!) to ask after her purse and there it was, everything in tact!  She asked who had left it, but the worker said the woman had not left her information.  Thrilled, relieved, and grateful, my friend walked slowly back to her car wondering how she would ever thank the person for their kind deed.  That evening, she placed an ad in the local paper, saying simply, “To the kind woman who found my purse and returned it, thank you!” What I love about this story is that not only did someone do the right, kind thing, but my friend went out of her way to thank them for it, even when she did not know who it was!  Kind deeds become a little more special with a hardy “thank you!”

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

500 bucks richer for a poor person

At work the other day, I was conversing with a lady about her first bus-riding experience, of which she shared her very unusual experience.  Only she and a blind man were riding the bus at the time when she noticed a wallet under a seat close by. She picked it up, inspected it, and found $500 inside. After an astonished pause, I asked, “Did they have an address in there to mail it to?” She replied, “Well, I called all the numbers in the wallet but none of them were in service, so I mailed it back to the person.” She then cackled and said, “But I kept the 500 bucks! I mean, he should be grateful just to get his wallet back.”

She kept the money. She. Kept. The. Money. ICK! She was so proud of herself for her profit from someone else’s misfortune. How do you respond to that?  Being at work I couldn’t react with the disgust and revulsion I felt, so I neutrally stated how happy he would be to have his wallet back, since it can be such a pain to replace personal documents. But inside I just could not believe that this woman would be so proud of taking some poor guy’s $500 that she would share it enthusiastically with a complete stranger.  I mean, she was delighted with herself. She thought she was the luckiest, smartest gal in the land. She had no idea what I was really thinking. What most anyone would be thinking. It was despicable. It was cold and pathetic.

It is one thing to find a dollar on the street with no evident owner and keep it. It is a whole other ordeal to know who the owner is and to rip him off anyways.  This kind of story, to me, is a reminder of how truly sad someone can be when they are poor in morals, decency, and in spirit.  I almost pity the woman for thinking that stealing $500 is something to brag about. Pity her for a bad upbringing, or for giving in to bad influences.  But, then, how can I pity someone so selfish and so heartless? Even when I’m trying to be nice to people, there is no room for that. At that point, it was hard to be civil. What disappoints me is how nice I thought she was at first, but then upon knowing this tale, I realized that she is the type of person I would never want to befriend….  When I think on the experience, I can only resolve to never do anything of that sort, and to raise my family with decency so they know to do the right thing in those situations. I can’t control that woman, but I can control my behavior. And if I ever lose my wallet, I hope to God she doesn’t find it!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Paying it forward

Have you ever seen that movie, “Pay It Forward” (with Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment)? Excellent film. I watched it years ago (it was released in 2000) and it was truly inspirational.  A very brief description of the film is that a young boy tries to change the world through direct action by creating the idea of “paying it forward.” He decides that he will do three nice things, and when those people thank him, he then asks them to pay it forward to three more people. This rule thus creates a domino effect of niceness.

I highly recommend that you watch this movie, or at least embrace the spirit of the idea. I think of it often, especially when nice things are done for me–such as my friends Heather and Derec helping me move last week. They were incredibly selfless of their time and their energy (especially when you consider the number of heavy books I have!). After something generous like that, I try to send that positivity out through my own actions–both to new people and to repay the people who were first kind to me. I like to think too, that the more positive actions you implement, the more positive deeds you will receive, so it is worthwhile twice over. Try it out and pay attention to how this change in behavior affects your day!

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Amicable Allegory #6: Kindness and enthusiasm

The other day I brought some Be Nice. pamphlets and postcards to Stuyvesant Photo while I also picked up some bulbs and batteries. My normal gal, Jen, was out that day, but working behind the counter were two other wonderful employees: Pete and Kim. I asked if I could put my stuff on their table in the entry way and they were thrilled! They loved the materials and got a real kick out of them. Pete said, “Hey! I do some of these things already.” That is something I hope a lot of people will say when they read those pamphlets. In addition to being a gentle reminder of things we can all improve, it is also an acknowledgement of things we do already! Kim went into the back and brought out clear plastic display stands and put the Be Nice. postcard into it so it would be more catchy in the entryway!  He then gave me another for use somewhere else. It was so generous and kind of him!

What was even better was the conversation that grew from that exchange. They were very curious about where I was from (Iowa), and what had brought me to Albany. They had very lively stories about their experiences with courtesy. We spoke about my art work, and Pete had awesome suggestions of resources to check out.

Every day I reach out to talk with other people, I benefit in some way. The principles of being nice and courteous really do make a heap of difference in our daily lives when acted on regularly!

🙂

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.