Nice Advice

They say for every insane amount of wonderful things that can happen to you in a day, you always dwell on and remember the one negative thing. That must be why my memories of grade school are mainly merciless teasing and name-calling from my peers, being ignored by the boys and left out by the girls. It couldn’t have been all that bad, but sadly, that’s what I remember.

I remember laying on my bed crying after one particularly bad day. My mom was sitting next to me trying to make me feel better. She was good at that. She gave me hope by telling me the nerdiest girl in her school grew up to be Miss America. Much later, she admitted making that up, but it kept me going for a few years. Anyway, the moral of her story was be nice to everyone, no matter what, because you never know what is going on in a person’s life or who they will turn out to be. For some reason, this advice resonated with me; probably because I felt guilty. Even though I knew all too well how awful it felt to be made fun of, I gladly went along with it on those rare days when the popular kids laughed at someone else’s expense instead of mine.

This simple advice, be nice to everyone, was burned in my brain as I started a new chapter in my life – junior high. I was so excited to go to a new school, make new friends, go to 7 classes in one day, have a locker! Oh who am I kidding…I was excited for all the new boys. Fortunately for me, I grew about a foot throughout sixth grade and the summer, leaving my baby fat behind while developing ample boobs. I also grew out the modified mullet hairstyles I donned in 3rd through 5th grade, and discovered what a little mascara and lip gloss can do for a girl. Apparently, 13 and 14-year old boys like that sort of stuff, and I was thrilled to finally be noticed.

No longer one of the nerds, I still tried my hardest to follow my mom’s advice and be nice to everyone I met. The kindness from others was returned tenfold, and junior high was easily my best school experience. I met so many cool people that I may have not known had I not followed Mom’s advice.

In grown-up world, there are so many reasons to not be nice to people. People can seem so rude and ignorant. They cut me off in traffic, or take up the whole aisle in a grocery store and then go so slow it hurts, or are just not as friendly to me as I think they should be. Sometimes I just want to tell them off (or flip them off), and sometimes I do just that.

Thankfully, I have an amazing friend who reminded me the other day how important it is to be nice to everyone. She is going through one of the worst experiences anyone can go through – the loss of a child. Through her writing, she describes how hard it’s been to go on with day-to-day life while dealing with her grief. Her world has changed completely without her son, while everyone else’s world goes on as if nothing has happened. I can’t stop thinking about how she describes going out into that world now:

I wished every time I walked out my door that I had a tattoo on my forehead that said, ‘My child died. Please be nice to me.’… No one looking at me knew what had just happened. How could they know? So I went out into the world and came across all the jerks from before. You know who they are…the people who ride your bumper because you’re going the speed limit and they can’t handle it, adding some nice horn blasts that seem to last for 10 minutes then speeding around while glaring at you or giving you the finger. The lady in Target who keeps ramming her cart into yours because apparently the line has moved and you weren’t aware of it, and did I mention she’s making stupid comments?

How many times have you been one of those jerks riding someone’s bumper on the freeway because you were late and they weren’t going fast enough for you? Ever flipped off a complete stranger? Gave a dirty look to someone in a grocery store for not paying attention? I sure as hell have. Many, many times. What if the person I was so awful to was going through the same thing my dear, sweet friend is going through? It’s unbearable to think about.

The sad thing is, they probably were. Everyone is going through something. Maybe not the loss of a child, but maybe a divorce. Illness. Job loss. Loneliness. A fight with their teenager. Maybe their car just broke down, or their dog died. Maybe their boss yelled at them, or their fattest fat pants were too tight that morning, or they just had to put their parents in a nursing home, or the fourth person they know in a year was just diagnosed with cancer. The list is endless, and every person you meet is going through or has gone through or loves someone who is going through something painful. My heart breaks for my friend, and I want to wrap her up in my arms and never let anyone be mean to her again. She is not alone in her grief. Perfect strangers all around me are grieving too – in the grocery store, on the freeway, at the other end of the DirecTV customer service line…

I will try to be more like junior high Mandee, and be much nicer and more understanding. I am so grateful to my mom for giving me the single most important piece of advice I have ever received. I am so grateful to my friend for reminding me that having a bad day or a bad moment is not a good reason to abandon compassion for others.

I don’t give out a lot of advice, but this one is worth passing on: Just be nice. You never know what someone is going through.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Linda Paul
    Nov 08, 2010 @ 22:48:43

    Boy I hear you about only remembering the bad stuff of school days. It lasted for me completely through junior high. I've often wondered if I remember it all wrong, especially now that I'm in contact with some of the nice folks I went to school with. But I've discovered that those feelings must be the "child condition." Everyone speaks of the same feelings of misery.Your mom was so wise.She knew that you would grow into a swan and she gave you a marvelous perspective to guide your personality throughout your life. You really ARE nice to everyone. I KNOW!


  2. Anonymous
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 23:00:59

    Thanks for the kind words! What you don't remember is that you have always been a nice person. Sure, we all have our moments. Nobody is perfect, but it is nice to see you remind yourself and everybody else that being kind to someone else, even a stranger, always makes you feel good inside. You never know what circumstances life is going to hand you so it is better to take it on with a positive attitude.Big M


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