Doing nice

Mom and dad’s advice about being nice to friends, strangers and animals didn’t fall on completely deaf ears although some of my friends would argue that on occasion.

Being nice has lots of parts to it. Being polite. Being kind. Being patient… understanding, thoughtful, respectful, courteous, forgiving… The list isn’t quite infinite, but it gets close.

The word “being” implies a state of existing. For me, it’s a passive word in that it doesn’t require action. Being just is.

And when it comes to life there are lots of opportunities to respond with niceness or not.

I was reminded of this during the week while flying cross-country with plane loads of others who just wanted to get from here to there with as little hassle as possible. Generally people were patient and courteous—nice, if you will. And, with the exception of the woman who couldn’t pry the cell phone from her face while speaking loudly, I found myself thinking “nice,” too.

But then I started watching the flight attendants as they helped mothers with small children to their seats, served drinks, read safety messages, passed out headphones and the myriad other things that airline people do in the course of their jobs. I offered the usual “thank you’s” for the coffee and the pillow. Mom and dad would have been pleased.

And, then it struck me.

Maybe there is something more than just being nice. Maybe we should elevate it to “doing nice” to others. Sure, the flight attendants were just doing their jobs and getting paid for it. So, “thanks,” should be enough, right?

I realized that the answer to that question might, in a small way, make a difference in the lives of others.

So, while sitting in 8B I decided to think about what they were doing for me: making the trip more safe and pleasant, calming passengers during some turbulence and bringing countless glasses of water to the person in 6C.

While leaving the plane and under the moniker of “doing nice,” I spoke to one of attendants and thanked her for making the flight pleasant and enjoyable. She paused, looked at me and said, “You just made my day.”

That made me wonder why it took so little to do that. And, if it took so little effort on my part, why wouldn’t I practice “doing nice” more often: think store clerk, the guy on the help line, the boss, the neighbor.

Being nice is good. But why not trump it with “doing nice.”


2 responses

  1. Might I just say that “doing nice” is precisely what you did for me…and I continue to be thankful for your time and efforts on my behalf…it DOES make a difference. Thanks.

  2. I think that niceness could be elevated to the state of “doing” rather than “being,” but I also think that “being” nice might still have some bearing as the act of doing nice things is often accompanied by a specific mindset or attitude — the desire to help or concern for others — more than just the action that is considered to be nice.

    Doing nice does require more physical work than being and I acknowledge that it is the action rather than the mindset that produces results, but I can’t help but feel that something that ones “does” requires less personal involvement than something one is. In other words, the “doing” part of being nice, I feel, needs an underlying “being” nice to prevent the action from becoming hollow of concern.

    Doing nice things can be done without a caring or concerned mindset such as with manipulation.

    I like “doing nice.” The phrase shows how being nice needs action and not just concern, but I feel it’s worth noting that doing nice should be built off of an underlying desire to be nice (care for others) and that the nice action should be a result of concern for others.

    PS: Great blog by the way. I’ll be sure to stop by again sometime.

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