I wrote about this almost exactly a year ago, but the subject recently came up in a conversation with a friend and I thought I’d cover it again.
As I’ve mentioned several times over the years, every day has some sort of special designation.
And as I’ve also pointed out, many are pretty silly (often by design) and some are just plain stupid (sometimes not by design). But there are some that are actually at least somewhat worthy, like one that will take place in a few weeks: National Be Nice Day (a.k.a. National Do Something Nice Day), which annually occurs on Oct. 5.
I feel like it’s a crying shame that anyone would have to be reminded to be nice, and that the subject would have such limited recognition that it needs a day named after it. But I think it’s safe to say that niceness isn’t nearly as widespread these days as it once was (kind of like the way common sense is no longer very common), and any way it can be promoted should be viewed as constructive and having at least some amount of value.
That said, what exactly does behaving nicely entail? Considering the general state of the world these days, I’d say it wouldn’t be a bad idea for some guidelines to be provided to the throngs of people who aren’t used to such behavior.
The obvious recommendations would include things you can “do,” like compliment a fellow worker, smile and listen when someone else is talking, hold a door open for someone and stuff like that. But I feel led to offer some suggestions of what “not to do” in the name of niceness.
When you get the urge to explain to someone why someone else is such a bad person, don’t.
When you’re driving and you feel like speeding up or slowing down to make it difficult for someone else to make a move, don’t.
When your blood begins to boil and you feel like huffing out loud because someone in front of you in the checkout line is writing a check, don’t.
When you want to say, “oh, did I wake you up?” when you set foot in a business’ office and are greeted by a person who asks, “how can I help you?,” don’t.
And when you want to criticize some ignorant, uninformed bonehead whose political viewpoints are “just wrong,” don’t.
Now, I realize that nobody reading this would ever consider doing such things, but you get the idea.
In the conversation with my friend, we agreed that not being nice doesn’t really make any sense, because it’s no more complicated, time-consuming or difficult than the being a horse’s behind.
The Golden Rule basically states, “do to others as you would have them do to you.” That’s actually a Biblical principle (from Matthew 7:12) and means acting in a manner that’s courteous, respectful, gracious, polite, sympathetic and empathetic toward your fellow humans. Out of that list, I don’t see anything harder or less worthy than being rude, disrespectful, arrogant, impolite, sarcastic, self-centered or just generally mean.
I would even argue being nice is most often easier than the alternative. And I submit to you that with enough repetition, it could even be habit-forming.
Can you think of anything that wouldn’t be nice about that?
I also believe that if growth, gain or achievement is someone’s goal, being nice is by far the best way to reach that objective.
Anyway, why not be nice? Why bother with frequently acting annoyed, haughty, indignant, or bitter, or as if you’re or owed something by everyone around you?
When you really think about it, having everyone celebrate National Be Nice Day 365 times each year would probably do wonders for our crumbling society. At very least, it would be pretty nice.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.