Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Results? Yes!

This is pretty cool . . . One of my cyber-buddies took the idea of NICE HAPPENS! to her high school in rural Minnesota. Here's what she wrote me this week:

Judy, I was gone last Tuesday and I'm gone for most of today, but I have to report that two weeks ago, when I brought your Nice Happens Tuesdays to each of my classes and to the faculty, a couple of great things happened:

1) My Principal brought it up at the faculty meeting so more of us could highlight it...

2) That day at lunch, without knowing what had happened, the lunch line workers went to Admin and said that the kids...many levels...were extremely pleasant and the vast majority said "thank you" to each of the workers on the line. The cooks couldn't figure it out, and Admin explained...yay! Direct and immediate action! I LOVE it!

So, don't ever think that your gestures don't matter. Nice happens. And it spreads ripples far beyond what anyone can know.

It's the Little Things

Big gestures in niceness can be great. But, I'm finding that day-to-day, there aren't necessarily opportunities for that to happen. And, this morning, as I sip coffee, I realize that smaller gestures can add up and matter perhaps even more.

For instance, my husband gets up every morning and turns on the coffee for me (he doesn't drink it). Sure, I could set the timer the night before, but I can't always predict when I'll want it to be ready. It's a sweet, small way for him to say "I love you." Every morning I appreciate it.

So, today, the third Tuesday of NICE HAPPENS!, I urge you to find little ways you can be nice, and also look for all the little ways others are nice to you. Whether it's letting someone pull out in front of you in traffic, or getting something off a high shelf at the grocery store, or noticing when someone does the same for you . . . and saying "Thanks."

Try it.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Results? Perhaps.

Last week was pretty interesting . . . responses to my "coming clean" post were fascinating and incredibly satisfying. I discovered that letting go of one grudge fed on itself, and I started thinking about other hard feelings or strained relationships (I'm not as dysfunctional as that might make me sound) and it became easier to think about letting go, moving forward, softening up.

That all felt good.

I also added to my "nice" list the idea of simply being considerate. Now, I like to think I'm good at that--but we all get busy or distracted or overwhelmed and think, oh well, I'll deal with that later, I'll answer that e-mail tomorrow, I'll return that phone call when I have more time. But, as busy as we all are, it's easy to let things slide much too far. So, I'm trying to be more intentional, and at least send off the note to say, "I'm thinking of you" or "I haven't forgotten about this." Things like that only take a minute and can make a real difference.

The biggest change I've noticed is how good it is to be reminding myself--on a daily basis--to lead with nice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letting Go

I can be pretty stubborn. Tenacious, even. Which is a wonderful thing for an author. It's less so when it comes to grudges.

Several years ago (okay, 7. Seven. Yes, I said it. SEVEN. I'm not proud of that.) I got into it, shall we say, with a colleague. He was a higher-up, but we were serving on a committee together and we locked horns. Harsh words were spoken. We retreated, and publicly, at least, we established a sort of detente. We played nice when we had to, when we saw each other, but I was still irritated. I knew, you see, that I was right. And I wasn't shy about airing my feelings--hurt, self-righteous, etc.--with those who knew both of us.

Yeah, it was like that. It made me feel icky, but I couldn't let go.

It became a habit. I didn't even have to give it any thought. I was so sure I was right, of course, so that made it okay, at least in my mind.

Then, yesterday, I came home and had a phone message from him. He had come across some tickets to a sporting event that he wasn't going to be able to use. And, he knew I'd love them. So, he was offering them to me. Just as a kindness. There were lots of other people who'd like them. He had to know that. People who hadn't been snotty to him, hadn't held on to hurt feelings and anger and being "right." But, he reached out to me. With grace.

I was taken aback, to say the least. And humbled. And, of course I accepted them. To be very honest, I was embarrassed at my behavior toward him--not for the first time, I admit, but I can say now, certainly for the last time.

His gesture allowed me to let go of the grudge, the hurt feelings.

To paraphrase (poorly) C. S. Lewis, letting go of a grudge doesn't change the other person, it changes me.

Later, when I was telling my husband about the offer, he reminded me that we had tickets to a different sporting event that we couldn't use. I knew this man would love them. So, when I went to pick up the tickets from him, I was able to give him the other ones. It never would have occurred to me to offer them to him before.

And in the "ticket exchange" and in our mutual gratitude, I think he sensed the change in me; I hope so.

Forgiveness feels really good, letting go of grudges feels even better. Kind of like when the grinch's "heart grew three sizes that day."

So, that's my report about Day 2 of my 21-Day Challenge--it feels really good.

As I discovered, letting go of hard feelings is a big part of being nice. And you're rarely as right as you think you are.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If It's Tuesday . . .

It must be another "Tuesday's child is full of grace" NICE HAPPENS! DAY.

So, go forth and spread the niceness.

And here's an update on my 21-Day Challange: yesterday was DAY ONE. Now, I need to admit that I didn't even leave the house until 4:45 in the afternoon. Which means I wasn't interacting with anyone . . . so, I could say I scored perfectly in that I wasn't un-nice to anyone. But that doesn't seem true to the mission. So . . . I'll double my efforts today (I've got lots of errands ahead of me today, including a major grocery shopping expedition.)

I did tell the clerk at the drive-through dry-cleaning window to have a great day. But she's always very friendly and I always tell her that.

p.s. I have to give a huge shout-out to my buddy and fellow author Laura Bradford aka Elizabeth Lynn Casey who's helping spread the word.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Going Forward

I've found that it's easy, sometimes, at least for me, to be grumpy. And it feeds itself. Same with being happy.

There was a great line in an early John Cusack movie, Say Anything, when he says to his older sister, "Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?"

So I've decided to choose to be happy. Be in a good mood, Be positive. Be . . . nicer.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to let people walk all over me. Or turn all saccharine and PollyAnna-ish. Or lose my sense of humor. But it does mean I'm going to work on being nice when it's not my natural, initial response. That'll be the challenge. I'm going to lead with happy.

You know, when I first started working out at the gym a year ago (again), I was reminded that it takes 21 days of a certain behavior to turn it into a habit (I think it was twenty-one). So, I'm thinking maybe after three weeks (or so . . . I'm likely to miss a day or two), I won't have to coach myself (as much) to lead with happy. I'm also hoping this works better than that Special-K two week challenge to lose a jeans size.

I'll still be urging you all to be "Full of Grace" on Tuesdays, and embrace every Friday by being "Loving and Giving." And I'd love to have you join me in my 21 Day Challenge (which, if it becomes a habit . . . as it should . . . will no longer be a challenge but simply a way of life to lead with nice. Especially when it's hard.)

I'll report fully on my successes and failures. I hope you'll do so too!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Clarifying a few things . . . nicely

So, along with getting scads of support for this whole NICE idea, there have also been some questions, and, at least in my own mind, some doubts. Not about the value of niceness, but about the implementation, so to speak. I mean, repeated posts exhorting everyone to be nice could get a tad old.

And, I feel the need to define my terms more clearly.

So, that's my weekend assignment to myself (between the Cubs-Cardinals series and the Packer game. GO CUBS! GO PACK!).

And here's my Friday thought/piece of wisdom, courtesy of Larramie: on Tuesday, I called for everyone to be "full of grace," to demonstrate that NICENESS HAPPENS. Larramie reminded me that "Friday's child is loving and giving."

So, let's head into the weekend focused on that.

Reminder to self . . . don't forget that at tonight's baseball game!

Oh, and I'd love your thoughts and ideas on where this all might go.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One of the best video clips ever!

You gotta love this dad!

So far . . . it's all been nice

So, I started this whole thing on Monday. As I write this, Wednesday evening, that means just over 48 hours ago. It's been amazing.

Beyond what I ever hoped. Over 600 page visits. Wonderful anecdotes by e-mail, in the comments, and on FB. Really cool. And one of my buddies, Wendi Aarons, sent me the link to this David Brooks NYT op-ed piece from Tuesday. It's worth a read. You might have to register to read it, but registering is free.

I so appreciate what Herbert says here--the perspective is really wonderful. And good food for thought.

So, enjoy, and spread the niceness . . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nice . . . not just another four-letter word

Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice. Nice.

I'm not sure why the word "nice" fell out of favor. Perhaps it's because it has a vagueness to it. Maybe it's all my years as an English teacher and writer, urging my students and myself to choose the exact right word. I was all about diction then--strong verbs, precise nouns.

"Nice" just seemed a bit, well, vanilla.

It's what you'd say when you got a gift you knew you'd never use or wear, you know, "Oh, my, how nice." And it was the kiss of death for a date, "Well, he's nice, but . . . "

It actually became a word that was often followed by a big "but"--almost like a disclaimer . . . "she's nice enough and everything, but . . . "

Who would want to be NICE?

But I'm beginning to think we need more nice. Vanilla and all. Not that I'm turning all Pollyanna or anything, but I'm beginning to see that nice is, well, NICE.

It means kindness and compassion. It means we can disagree calmly and politely. And without calling people names. It's holding doors and carrying packages and thinking of others. It's getting off the cell phone when you're checking out of the grocery store. It's being patient even when you don't want to be. It's saying hi to the person at the customer service desk before launching in to your complaint.

And here's something else that's nice . . . the overwhelming comments and attagirls and shout-outs I've been getting ever since starting this little blog.

We really do want nice. And I have a hunch we're going to make sure that NICE HAPPENS.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday's Child is Full of Grace

The responses to my posts yesterday--on facebook and on here--were pretty astounding. So, here's what I'm proposing--let's proclaim Tuesdays as the NICE HAPPENS day. Every Tuesday. Every week.

I know, we all strive to be nice every darn day. That's the way we're wired. You know, one of the reasons poor behavior makes news is because it's an aberration. If rudeness becomes normal we're all in trouble. But too often it feels like we're surrounded by not niceness. And we want to take back the NICE. So, what the heck, let's do it.

Let's all go out of our way today (and every TUESDAY) to show niceness. Grace under pressure. Pleasantness. Let's set the example. Let the guy with two items step in front of you in the grocery line. Smile at the person who scowls at you. Notice those who are nice to you. Talk it up.

Let's be Beyonce rather than Kanye.

(Can I just say that my buddy Carleen Brice came up with this Tuesday idea--she's a genius!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

What Mama Said

I wrote a blog post on my other, author, blog that seemed to resonate with friends and readers. And it got me thinking. Perhaps we need to start a NICENESS MOVEMENT.

I know, it seems silly, to those of us who take it for granted. But in light of recent, well-publicized rudeness/idiocy/bad behavior (take your pick among Joe Wilson, Kanye West and Serena Williams to name just a few), I feel like we need to stand up and be heard. Nicely, of course. Maybe even get some bracelets that say "just be nice" or somesuch.

So, are you with me? Want to help spread the word? Want to guest blog here with tales of good behavior? Tips for how to keep your cool? Suggestions for teaching responsibility? Accountability?

Call it The Golden Rule or karma or whatever you will, but I for one want to take our country back. To civility and courtesy. To rising above not sinking to the low. It's not red state or blue state, Democrat or Republican. It's simply doing what mama said.

Anybody care to join?

Thanks in advance.

p.s. Here's the post that got it all started:

My Mama Taught Me Better

What's going on in society these days? I mean really. Look at Kanye West and Joe Wilson (two names that have probably never been uttered in the same sentence before!).

When did rudeness become acceptable? Defensible? The status quo?

When did apologizing become a sign of weakness or backing down?

My mother taught me to be kind. Be responsible. And yes, to stand up for what I believe in but in a civilized manner. She taught me that the world doesn't revolve around me. I passed those lessons on to my sons. I said I was sorry . . . and I MEANT it when I said it . . . when I'd been unfair to them. Or even just short-tempered. I believe that being willing to apologize shows strength and compassion.

Rudeness is never acceptable. Even when I've been treated poorly, it's not okay. I don't want to stoop to the lowest common denominator. I want to rise above it.

Breaking rules is not okay. I learned this one many times, but the best reminder came when I was 16 and had gotten caught going off campus for lunch (something only seniors could do and I was a junior). Since I was the driver, I got three days detention. Since I wouldn't rat on who else was in the car with me they tacked on another two days (I felt sort of noble about that!). When I tried to defend myself to my mom (who wasn't buying any of my teenaged outrage, by the way) by exclaiming, loudly, that it was a stupid rule, she calmly replied that it might well be but I had two choices: obey it or work to change it. Breaking it was not okay. In honesty, I'd like to say I worked to change it, but no. I did get better at not getting caught (it was all in which parking lot I parked in, I discovered).

But, I digress.

Joe Wilson was out of line to yell "You lie!" during President Obama's speech. He could have groaned or booed. That's what the parties in opposition do. And now he's acting like not apologizing makes him more of a man. Uh, no. It makes him look weak and stubborn and ill-bred. His mama must be shaking her head.

And Kanye? Most of the folks nominated for any award DON'T win. That's the law of numbers. And just because you think the voters got it wrong, you don't get to hop up and announce your opinion to the world. You win some and you lose some. That's life. Deal with it without looking like a doofus. Or worse. What must your mama think?

What's happening? Do we need a MOM SQUAD or something to go from town to town and teach civility? Kindness? The Golden Rule?

Shouldn't it come naturally?