In case you missed this post on medium.com…
Our world is a pretty screwed up place.
I know you knew that, preaching to the choir.
But I had this epiphany about how to maybe make it … less crappy. I really think it could work.
So I was going through mementos from my 26-year journalism career. Everything you’d expect was stuffed in that heavy cardboard box: awards, articles I was particularly proud of, thank you notes and a bunch of stale Peeps. I feel like I should probably explain that last one.
I had a collection of the marshmallow-y candy because the Born company would send them to news outlets every year to promote their seasonal styles. I love Peeps. Not for eating — for experimenting.
I’d pull those suckers out of their packaging, date them with a black Sharpie and leave them on my desk to harden. Fun fact: During the summer rainy season — called the monsoon, to those of you who don’t live in the southwest — meteorologists would measure the dew point, or amount of moisture in the air, to determine whether or not it was truly monsooning, which is not an actual meteorological term, I don’t think. The scientists had their dew point, I had the Peep Point. When the air got humid enough, those desiccated desserts from 2000 (no lie) would rehydrate into squooshy candy once more. That is how I knew when it would rain. My sugary system was unfailingly accurate.
And while science, in any form, is a vital, important part of strenghtening and enhancing our world, that is not my plan to better humanity. I promise I’m getting to my point — stay with me. Please.
Anyway, I flipped through the manila folder of thank you notes — a few from families I’d written about with gut-wrentching stories of losing loved ones and some notes of appreciation from new business owners, but most were from teachers and their students, obligatory appreciation. But there was one that shared a sentiment that was the kind of thing you might think in your head but not say out loud:
Did you see that?! Not the grammatical errors, I will excuse those because how often do you get an ego boost like that? Answer: NEVER!*
So there ya go, once upon a time, I had it. Not sure when I lost it, but this is exactly why we need to say what we think and compliment people more! Be appreciative! Because who doesn’t need to hear something nice? Exactly. I laughed and felt special for precisely 3.2 hours after reading that.
When someone helps me — like the pharmacist who took the time to call me twice because we were fighting the clock to get medication filled before the weekend — I thank him or her profusely. I always make sure to fill out glowing “how was our service?” forms when the service was good and specifically namecheck whoever helped me, and I still hug the server who — when I sheepishly requested an eggs Benedict without the eggs** — did not look at me like an insane person but helpfully and happily suggested I sub avocado.
And what if, if someone’s rude to us, we instead respond with grace and compassion? What if we cut that person some slack and give him/her the benefit of the doubt because we don’t know what’s happening in that person’s life right now and maybe there’s a legit reason for assholish behavior? Like the guy who made you slam on your brakes when he cut in front of you? Maybe he was racing to get his super pregnant wife to the hospital. Even if he wasn’t, would it have helped matters to yell and honk? Of course not. So why bother? Don’t be a jack wagon, be the… the… the… welcome wagon? OK, that doesn’t quite work but you get the idea. Be the nice you want to see in the world.
I’ll give you a real life example.
Years ago, like probably 10, I was driving my kids to the library. It was a tight parking lot and the car in front of me decided to stop, right there. I couldn’t move. There was no space to go around, so I sat. Patiently, which was not easy because my kids wanted to get out of the car NOW. Anyway, there was a car behind me and that guy was not so patient. He laid on the horn over and over and yelled. I gestured — no, not that gesture — but more like a shrug that I couldn’t move. It seemed like forever, but finally that car in front of me — which was waiting for someone to come out of the library — moved and I was able to park. So did the car behind me, but he just could not let it go.
Do I need to mention I was driving a minivan?
Anyway, he continued to rant as I unloaded the kids, who were now wide-eyed and freaked out.
“Hey — kids here! C’mon!” I simply called back at him.
“Mommy! Why is that man yelling at you?! Why is he so mean?”
I looked at the angry man. He was old, walked with a pronounced limp.
“You know, maybe he had a rough morning,” I said. “Or maybe he’s had a hard life and is just a cranky person. He was wrong to yell at us, but it’s not going to make things better if I yell back. So it took a little longer, big deal — we all made it into the library and now we can pick out books.”
They still bring up this incident. They’ve completely forgotten how that same summer we dropped $200 at Legoland for Harry Potter Legos, but this they vividly remember. We all look back on it and feel, ultimately, sorry for the guy because he was definitely one sad old jack wagon.
I guess that was probably more a lesson in knowing when to let things go, but that does goes hand-in-hand with being nice.
Anyway, people need to know, should know, when they do a good job. Don’t assume others are going to tell them. Don’t assume the big boss is going to say, “Way to go!” I guarantee if someone is pissed, you will hear about it but rarely do the good words come up through the pipeline.
Let’s change that.
Think the express clerk at Albertson’s has cool painted nails? Say so! Think someone at Target is super helpful, say thank you! Wave at the white Honda Civic that lets you into the lane! Say thanks to the guy holding the door for you at the doctor’s office, and then hold it open for someone else! This one is going to sound self-serving but if you read something you like, tell the person who wrote it! Journalists*** are probably the least likely of all the professionals to be thanked (why do you think I kept those notes?).
And while we’re at it, it’s great to tell people that you love them — and we should do that, daily — but take it one step further and tell them why.
So come on! Who’s with me?! Let’s do this niceness thing. I’ll even start: I appreciate you reading all the way to the end of this because I know you’re a busy person. Thank you.
*Charlize Theron and The Rock excluded.
**Because they are gross unless safely hidden away in baked goods.
*** Actually, I guess those would have to be parking enforcement officers.