Saturday, September 26, 2009

Just Be Nice

At the beginning of this year, I accidentally left my purse in my car and left my car unlocked. Not my brightest moment. Still, I maintain that I did not deserve

to have someone in the wee hours of the morning get into the van and steal my credit cards. I felt so violated, and so angry, and then one of my readers said something that rang true. She said she was trying to be extra nice to people to combat all the negativity going on in the world. Such a contrast from my whiny "why does everyone have to be so mean?" attitude I was carrying around. I vowed then to try to do the same. To be extra nice. To smile. Somewhere, somehow, I think I went back into my day to day life and forgot. Not that I go around with a frown on my face or be unnecessarily grumpy, but I surely can't remember a time when I recently went out of my way to be extra nice to someone.

Way back when we lived in Georgia, I felt overwhelmed sometimes with the kindness of my friends. People would offer to babysit the boys when Zack was tiny, and would never let me repay the favor. I felt horribly guilty, and tried to think of ways to return their kindness, but with 3 kids, ages 3, 2, and a newborn it seemed daunting. Back then, it occurred to me that my time to help would come later. I would know it when I saw it, and I may not repay the same friends that helped me out, but I could pay it forward, so to speak.

Recently, I've felt little nudgings of things to do for people, and I'm ashamed to say I've been suppressing them. It's never been a huge thing. Maybe taking a dinner to someone whose schedule is crazed right now, or sending a small gift to a friend far away. You know what's been stopping me? Thoughts like "Well, I really don't know them that well." " What if they think it's strange?" "What if it seems to forward, or somehow offends them?"I don't think I'm copping out, but maybe (definitely) I've become a little bit too worried about self preservation and what people will think. That is pretty twisted, though, because I know that if someone showed up at my door unannounced with dinner in hand, I would totally love it. Even if I already had dinner planned, even if it wasn't my favorite food. These are the kinds of things that stop me.

When I had the opportunity to read Debbie Tinzer's book "Do One Nice Thing" for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club, I knew I had to participate. This was already on my mind and I wanted that extra push to do what I vowed to do 9 months ago. The book is a collection of ideas ofacts of kindness. The theory behind it is that we can't change all the problems in the world, but we can make improvements by doing one nice thing a week. The suggestions in the book range from a simple smile (anyone can share a smile!) to helping children by donating school supplies, to donating a goat (for $30) to needy families in South Africa.

The possibilities are endless. My time has come to repay some of the favors done for me in the past. With this book in mind, I will commit to doing at least one nice thing a week. It may be something as simple as making cookies for my kids, and sharing them with the neighbors, but I will also strive to get out of my comfort zone. Next time an idea pops into my head, I won't dismiss it, or talk myself out of it. If I lack ideas I know I can turn to Debbie Tinzer's book.

For more discussion of "Do One Nice Thing," check out the Silicon Valley Moms Blogs (including Deep South Moms) on Tuesday, September 29th.


Anne said...

Thank you so much for this article. I just happened across your grocery shopping article on another site, clicked to find your home site and got sucked in! I have never heard of this book, but I have been feeling the need to pay-it-forward as well and also putting it off some. Occasionally I would do something "nice", but to make it a consistent, weekly habit is such a great idea. Thank you again for this article and book review!

Rebecca said...

Thank you Anne!! I'm glad you found my blog!

Astarte said...

I'm definitely checking that book out.

I know how you feel about worrying about whether people would actually *want* help from me. Everyone is so worried about accepting help, it seems. I've been trying to make an effort to just smile at everyone I meet, really look into their eyes and smile at them. I think that makes a difference to a lot of people, especially those who are obviously down on their luck, because they spend a lot of time being ignored and dehumanized.

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