Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Be Nice

In my time at college, I listened to probably a hundred chapel speakers and seminar lecturers and special guests of all kinds, all of whom seemed to have a book to sell afterward.

I only bought one: Andy Crouch’s Creating Culture. (It’s really good, by the way, and challenged me a lot as a Christian artist to rise above mediocrity.)

You know why I bought that one book? I enjoyed his topic, sure, and I liked the way he presented his information when he spoke (engaging speakers are often good writers). But what set this guy apart was something that happened over sandwiches.

A group of about twenty students were meeting in a small Q and A session after Mr. Crouch’s lecture on culture. “Let’s go around and say our names, major, and something interesting about us,” the host of the session said, “so Mr. Crouch has a chance to eat.”

He dutifully shoved down a Subway veggie offering while we all did a rapid-fire round of names and other information that we all pretend to care about but forget seconds later. Then we moved on to the real purpose of the session: picking this guy’s brain.

At one point, I asked a question of some kind—I don’t remember what it was, just that it was kind of impertinent and challenged one of the ideas Mr. Crouch had just raised. He nodded and wiped a bit of mayo off his mouth. “That’s a great question…Amy, wasn’t it?”

I nodded blankly. He actually answered the question after that, but I was just staring. He said my name. The guy got shoved into a group of two-dozen and he actually knew who I was! We all knew that the name thing was a stall tactic so he could actually eat lunch. No one expected him to be paying attention, least of all me.

And that’s the reason I bought his book. Because a guy who cares enough to remember my name (and can talk articulately and passionately about what monastic chants and African-American spirituals have in common) is worth reading.

That’s the power of being nice. It stands out because we just don’t expect it anymore.

Sometimes being nice gets a bad rap, probably because some people muster up a sticky-sweet fake smiley-face kind of nice. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Please don’t be that kind of nice. You’ll give the universe cavities. But that’s not the only way to do nice.

I saved this quote from a great article about Mr. Rogers because I thought it was so powerful: “Fred Rogers was fearless enough to be kind. Kinder in a single day than many of us can muster up in a week. He wasn’t embarrassed to be gentle; he was never too cool to be simply good. He championed ‘not buying things, but doing things.’ He created the longest-running program in PBS history, and he didn’t do it with mocking or putdowns or smug superiority. He did it by being nice. And nice is incredibly underrated.” 

We need people like that.

I love the guilt-inducing nudge of this meme. Do you want to disappoint Mr. Rogers? Didn't think so.
There are a lot of motivational blog posts you could read today that will tell you that you, yes, YOU can go out there and change the world. They will challenge you to set goals, exceed expectations, be indispensable, and follow your grandest dreams.

Those might be good things to do. But maybe, just for a change of pace, you should go out there and be nice.

See? Not much of a rallying cry, is it? But I can think of few things that the world needs more than people who remember names, people who treat even the custodian or the store clerk with respect, people who hold doors open and really want to know how you’re doing and resist the urge to make a snide comment and give credit and hugs and thank-yous.

People need a neighbor, and Mr. Rogers isn’t around anymore. If you’re a Christian, Jesus told you to be a neighbor to those who need it, even in the little things. That may seem like an awfully big sweater to fill, but all it really takes is being nice.

No comments:

Post a Comment