Playing Nice

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being nice. As in, the nicest thing you’ve ever done. This one’s actually a bit unusual for me. Not because I’m some kind of raging sociopath (most of the time, anyway), but because I don’t see my niceness as anything particularly special. Rather, it’s more like common sense; of course I’m going to hold the door open for the next person. Of course I’ll give up my subway seat for the elderly. Of course I’m going to thank someone for helping me. I’m not the cheeriest person on the planet, but I understand the importance of being nice. It’s really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day problems and forget that yes, other people have lives too. When I worked in banking, my coworkers and management would marvel at the patience and kindness I gave to all my clients, be they little old Chinese women who barely spoke English, blind, homeless, strippers, lawyers, office workers, police, tattoo artists, etc. Their social standings didn’t matter to me; when you remove all the extra stuff, there’s still a human being underneath. And the kindness paid off well; even chronically rude clients were civil whenever I was handling their business.

I think my niceness has a lot do with being around older generations. Even growing up, I’d much prefer hanging out with the adults than anyone my age. I’ve been nicknamed The Old One on more than one occasion. For better or worse, it’s given me a lot to think about in terms of aging and my future. If you’ve ever had to take care of an elderly relative, you probably know all about this. Learning about diabetes, cancer, disabilities, stress, depression, comas, cataracts, tumors, memory loss, blood sugar, blood pressure, metabolism, bone fragility, transfusions…I’ve spent more time sitting in hospitals than any near-30 year-old should. Not because I’m sick, but because I try support and help relatives who are. Pushing wheelchairs, picking up prescriptions, just the little stuff that most young people take for granted. You want to learn patience? Try helping someone who can barely stand up. Most youths – and mainstream culture, really – try to brush aside any reminder of their mortality. Me? I face it every day, simply because someone has to help.

But as far as the best one-on-one niceness moments go, it’d probably be my interactions with children. There’s an unspoken understanding in my family that I’m good with kids. Even I was surprised by it; I’m the weird, quiet one that prefers books over social interaction. You’d think I’d be the last person for the job. But if I’m trapped at a family gathering with no peaceful hiding places, I’ll invariably end up watching the little ones. Mainly because most of the adults don’t bother; they would rather sit around getting drunk, arguing, or gossiping. If I get to see everyone only a couple of times a year, of course I rather play with the kids than bicker with the adults. Someone’s got to make sure the kids are doing okay. And amazingly, they usually listen to me. Even the typically loud and bratty ones! I think it’s because I treat them like people without being a pushover; I’m much more polite, but I don’t baby talk down to them. The other adults have caught on to this, and have used me as a way to talk kids into playing outside, reading more, etc.

And getting a shy kid to open up a little bit, too.

There’s one memory comes to mind. About ten summers ago, I got to stay with a family friend over in Washington D.C. As night fell, we decided to go out and tour some of the national monuments. I can’t remember exactly where it was, but we were walking along this line of trees in a park. My host’s little girl had gotten separated from the group, so I doubled back to make sure she was okay. I knew where the others were headed, but it was too foggy and poorly lit to see them. I looked down at the little kid and noticed how quiet and shaky she’d gotten.

Me: Wow. It’s really dark out here, huh?

Her: Y-yeah, it is. But that’s okay! I’m not scared! I-I can see real good in the dark!

Me: Uh huh. I’m probably not as good at it as you. Can I hold your hand? I don’t wanna get lost.

Her: Yeah, okay!

So we held hands and rejoined the rest of the group. The little girl never left my side, and fell asleep snuggling against me on the ride back home. Her parents thanked me profusely for watching her later on. Like most of my acts of kindness and/or common sense, I’m just glad that I could help.