Friendly Reminder

This is your friendly reminder…to be friendly.

Yes, everyone out there is fighting a hard battle, and blah blah blah. But that’s not the most important reason to be nice to other people. Actually, why do you need a reason? This should be your default mode.

And you can come and tell me that you had a hard day, and life isn’t going the way you expect it to, and it was one time, but I’m going to reply: you had a choice. You always have a choice.

And don’t misunderstand me. When I say nice, I’m not referring to a doormat. I’m saying kind, generous, and friendly. Even when it’s hard to. Even when you’d rather not. Even when it’s not important.

Be a friend as often as possible. Because we all depend on each other.

Who Are You?

So, who are you, really? Go ahead. Introduce yourself. 

What do you like? Love? Hate? Believe in? What are your experiences? What are your fears, and hopes, and dreams? 

I bet you can answer all of that relatively quickly. So, why does that suddenly go out of the window when you’re trying to find a new job or meet new friends? Why do you have to be someone you are quote unquote “not?” 

I get it. First impressions are big so you can’t talk about your UFO theory immediately upon meeting someone new. But if that’s who you are, then that’s who you should continue to be. Ease into yourself, but don’t erase your identity. 

And by the way? You should be searching for jobs and friends that allow you to be who you are, naturally. That allow you to move in the circles and skills that are comfortable to you. 

Why? Because nothing can change who you are at your core. This is both a comforting and terrifying thought: it’s great because you can always rely on yourself. It’s awful because the people who have “changed” around you, probably haven’t. 

But the only thing that matters here is who you think you are. If you like that person, then great. Everything else is just perspective. 

No Thank You

Today I learned a lesson that all of my college professors, my parents, and any old wise man on top of a mountain could tell me.

Don’t expect anything. Don’t expect anything good to happen or anything bad to happen. Just don’t expect anything. It’s easier that way.

Take today. I am one of the million cheerful people who take public transportation. Ah yes, the dank stairwells, the finicky ticket machines, and don’t forget, the other 999,999 people traveling with me. If anything, it is an experience. And we’ll leave it at that.

And speaking to that last point (because I couldn’t leave it at that) about all of those people, it can definitely be tough. They don’t always move out of your way, and they don’t always slide across the seat to let you sit. My strategy is to find someone who is pretty much doing what I will be doing (reading, listening to music, etc.) so that I won’t bother them by sitting next to them. We’re sort of like two friends hanging out, doing the same activity.

But as soon as I sat down today, I saw an older couple looking around for a seat. The woman sat directly in front of me, while the man was unable to find a seat near her. It was an easy choice. I quickly got up and told him to sat down. He might have muttered something, but I didn’t hear it.

And do you know what else I didn’t hear? A thank you! Seriously? I know it’s common courtesy to let someone sit down that should have a seat over you, but you couldn’t say thank you? It’s like when people don’t give that little wave while driving when you let them out into traffic. It takes two seconds and it makes the world of difference!

So, I got up fuming, a little. I knew my heart was in the right place, but I felt all wrong. And then it dawned on me: I was doing something for the results. I was expecting something very specific to happen. I genuinely thought that the man should be sitting down, but I was also waiting for him to acknowledge me, to thank me, when I should have just moved out of my seat with no expectations of receiving anything for having manners.

But this story has a twist ending. The guy that was sitting next to me actually got up when I got up to let the elderly couple sit next to each other. He then came over to me and asked if I wanted to sit down in another seat. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to do that, but I was incredibly touched by the gesture. Anybody else might have watched the exchange and let it happen. And this time? I hadn’t expected him to do that. I hadn’t expected anything.

So, in the end, expectations are really just pleas and wishes for the world to work like we want it to. And when life doesn’t work out how we want to, sometimes, it is just preparing you for something better. When you don’t have expectations, you may find that you’ll be pleasantly surprised anyway.

Hello and Hey

I have not one, but two stories to tell you tonight. Keep in mind that both of these events happened over the course of one day (aka today) and both are true.

Here’s the first one:

There’s an older gentleman who runs in my neighborhood. I’m not sure how old he is specifically, but let’s say that he was probably able to vote for President Truman. (And in case you’re not likely to do the math, that’s pretty old.) Yet, I sometimes see him running twice a day and in every kind of weather. And he has time to say hello. Living in the time that we all do, I don’t always get a “hello” from anyone. Actually, I don’t even get the little wave when I let someone driving go before me. A “hello” is about as rare as finding a $20 bill in the mall parking lot. So, imagine my surprise when I’m going out to my car this morning, and I hear such a quiet, little “hello” from the man always running down my less than quiet street. I returned the “hello” and walked back in the house, grinning from the kind start to my day.

Here’s the second one:

I like to take walks with my mom at night. We walk a good distance through the neighborhood. We see a lot of people coming home, taking out the trash, turning on sprinklers. And we also see people speeding. We feel cars whiz by us, and the sidewalk always feels too narrow. But we make do, walking side by side, keeping away from the road. That is, until tonight, when some bro screamed “HEY” at us from his buddy’s car. I clutched my invisible pearls and jumped a little into the air. I looked up to glare at the passing car and heard both occupants chuckling as they sped away, gaining what, I don’t know, from scaring two women (as if men don’t do that all day, every day!). I was silently fuming the entire way home.

Now, as a reminder, both of these events happened in one day, today. One “Hello” and one “Hey.” But such different messages. One made me believe in karma and one made me wish for it.

For me, it’s hard to reconcile these events. How can people be so nice and so cruel in the same span of time?

And then I realized what I was confronted with: a physical embodiment of the human condition.

In short, there are going to be people who will go out of their way to be nice. And then there are going to be people who will think it’s funny to torture complete strangers. And sometimes, both reactions are going to come from the same person (although I would argue that what separates both people in this case is maturity).

But that’s what humans are. We’re this swirling mass of impulses, both good and bad. We have the I should say hello instinct, and we also have the let’s scream “hey” at these people instinct. One will always win out. Thankfully, both probably won’t win out in a single day in two different people, like they did to me. But maybe they’ll fight the same battle in you.

And as much as you can, try to feed the “hello” impulse. I, and your neighborhood, will thank you.

If You Have Something Nice to Say

You know when people say, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Well, what do you do when you have something nice to say? Do we simply assume the opposite is true? Why are we encouraged to not say mean things, but nothing is said about nice things?

Well, in case you were wondering this like I was, I found out the answer today. Even though nice things can be rare because they are not emphasized, they still happen.

I was sitting in my car at a red light, like one does. There was a turning lane beside me, and I was driving straight. I was the second car in my line. Patiently waiting for my turn, I saw the green arrow come on for the turning lane. One car went, but the car that was even with me didn’t. I heard a couple of quick beeps, and I groaned inwardly and thought, why is everyone so impatient? The light just turned green! I looked over to see what was the hold up and saw a guy looking back at me. He had a backwards hat and a beard and I was about to groan a second time from some masculine comment when he gestured to his head and mouthed, “I love your earrings!” I laughed immediately and mouthed “thank you!” and gave him the thumbs up. He gave it back to me and drove off. And I chuckled the entire way to work.

Because of course he loved my earrings. They were in the shape of TARDISes from Doctor Who. Us Doctor Who fans are e v e r y w h e r e, and we are always nice to each other. Actually, nerds in general have some weird camaraderie thing, even when they’re complete strangers. Maybe because we can all relate to being shoved into lockers…

But at the same time, I recognize that he didn’t have to say anything. He didn’t have to hold up traffic. He didn’t have to take time out of his day. Actually, he completely ran the risk of me not looking over at him at all. And yet, he still took a stab at paying me a compliment. And it paid off. And made me grin a 3,000 watt smile.

So, I think we should put less emphasis on what we shouldn’t be saying (which is not nice things) and more emphasis on what we should be saying (nice things). (Maybe we should even emphasize gestures, like this guy.) Because there really isn’t anything better than a sincere compliment. And we don’t have to all have something common (like Doctor Who) to express our appreciation of someone else. Any little thing will do.

So, whether there is a person in line or in the car next to you, try to make their day a little better. I know this guy did that for me.