I'd like to discuss "Being Nice" today. I'd like to preface this with the caveat that I am fully aware of my own shortcomings in this department. I am not always Nice. I try to be. The compassionate and forgiving Savior who lives in my heart is always working on me.
And sometimes Nice doesn't mean pleasant. Sometimes you have to be stern, forceful or passionate, which isn't always pleasant.
So really, when I say Be Nice, I think what I'm trying to say is to Be Compassionate. Always try to put yourself in the other person's shoes before you do or say something.
But for the purposes of saving pixels, I'm going to say Be Nice.
And that goes double when you live or work in a small town. Especially when you didn't grow up in that small town.
Nine years ago, we picked up and moved from the inner city of a bustling metropolis of 100,000 to a small town in north Texas. Eight years ago, I landed my dream job of art teacher and yearbook adviser in a nearby small town. And seven years ago, we bought a house smack-dab in the center of that small town, which boasts a population of around eight hundred, give or take.
It was a little bit of culture shock for my oldest child, who had unfortunately absorbed a "hood culture" attitude at her previous school. But as my regular readers know, she also came pre-packaged with a set of DNA that wasn't going to cooperate with polite society, regardless of her surroundings. My other two adapted quickly, being friendly and kind-hearted by nature. Looking back, even though my eldest did finally land herself in jail for shoplifting recently, it was long after she lived under our roof -- and I believe that our move to Ruralville delayed her entry into criminal behavior significantly. Had we remained in our inner-city locale, she probably would've been locked up much sooner and even ended up addicted or dead. She may still be a hot mess, but she's alive and married and has a baby on the way.
But I digress. As is my wont, being of the attention-deficit variety.
Being kind, compassionate, NICE... in a small town... especially when you didn't grow up there... is not only a good thing to do, it will likely determine whether you remain there or not.
On a purely logical level, let's say you do or say something mean to someone who you believe has wronged you in some way. It's a guarantee that that person is somehow related, by birth or marriage, to EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON, in the county. And word gets around. You want to destroy your reputation really fast? Treat Cousin Matilda rudely in line at Wal-Mart. Your child's math teacher is married to Matilda's nephew. She may not take off points unnecessarily on the next math test, but you can guarantee that during the parent-teacher conference, she will regard you with suspicion.
On a broader level, however, being Nice to someone -- even if they're downright MEAN to you -- means that you see past the fact that I WAS WRONGED and you see that the person who WRONGED ME actually may be having a really, really bad struggle with something right at that moment and didn't really need to be kicked in the gut for something as trivial as a parking space. Will it kill you to have to walk a little further? Not likely. And on the flip-side, that person who was really nasty to you about that parking space may really just be taking out his frustration on you because they're desperately grappling with issues at home.
Being Nice is not usually an inherent trait in the human heart. We're full of ourselves. So it pays to practice it. The more you do it, the better you get, until eventually you just do it out of habit.