How much more effort does it take to be nice? As opposed to being rude or unkind.
If it’s true that it takes four times more muscles to frown than to smile, it should be easier to be nice. Seems it would be natural. But it’s not.
I started to ponder this question and remembered a time when my family spent the night in Atlanta. It was way past suppertime when we checked into the Marriott, so we rushed across the street to Denny’s.
Our waitress met us with a smile that never left her face. “How’s my favorite family?” she asked every time she refilled our drinks. The truth is, we were her only family. But she could have sat in a corner and pouted because there were no other customers. Instead, she treated us like we were special.
The next day there was a different kind of woman behind the Marriott front desk. In her own way, she was as cranky as our waitress had been friendly. You know the type. Flared nostrils, cold eyes, I-dare-you-to-speak-to-me attitude. Which left me asking, “How much more effort does it take to be nice?”
Years ago when Hurricane Opal struck, there were plenty of examples of kindness. My neighbors had a tree blocking their driveway. Two strangers drove up, cut the tree into sections, moved it to the road, jumped back in their truck and drove away.
That kind of support was common in the pioneer days. Neighbor helping neighbor. When misfortune struck, people came from miles around to lend a hand. Cooperation was the ingredient that made the harsh life bearable.
But hardship doesn’t always elicit warmhearted acts from others. Looters, like rats, often crawl out of the gutters in times of trouble.
The media told about a woman in a hit-and-run accident. Looters stripped the wedding ring off her finger as she died. Her father, in the midst of his grief, said he wished he could meet the people who did it. Talk to them. Help them find a way to turn their lives around. I’m not sure I could muster up that much niceness.
I remember “Hey Day,” a tradition that started at API and continued when the college became Auburn University. All day long students smiled and said “hey” to friends and strangers around the campus. Just think how pleasant it would be if we did that all over Auburn, not for one day, but every day, making kindness a habit.
Victor Hugo said, “The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness.” And Henry James told his nephew, “Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
The saying I need to remember is, “People need your kindness more than they need your opinion.” But the one I like most says, “In a world where you can be anything…BE KIND.”