You Better Be Nice…
How we treat each other really does matter.
This morning was just like too many of our mornings. Calm transformed to fury as we tried to get out the door to head to school. Rhett, my uber emotional 7-year-old, began whining that it wasn’t fair that I always got what I wanted, and he never did. That I was able to tell them all what to do: “Let’s go! It’s time to get in the car;” but they couldn’t sling it back at me: “Nah Mom, I’m going to sit here and watch a show; bring me some popcorn.”
I bowed up and responded that I really didn’t want to drive him to school and sit in the obscene traffic that turns an 8-minute drive into a 30-minute time drain every day. But I do. However, tomorrow morning he could hop right on the bus when it stops in front of the neighbor’s house.
He silenced. I pulled the bus card.
Moments later, as we rolled down the street, there was another torturous wail, complaint, and grumble. I asked him why he was choosing to vomit his negative energy all over us. His response was incensed. “What are you talking about?!? I didn’t vomit anywhere!” True, to his 7-year-old spirit, I was way over his head. I backed up and explained that he had a choice: focus on the good or focus on the yuck. I explained that it is okay to be angry or sad, but how we choose to respond to anything and everything sets the tone and the course for our day, what kind of person we become, and how those around us feel.
“If you choose to focus on poor me, guess what? You’ll be sad. If you choose to think, ‘I’d rather be watching Pokemon than going to school, but at least I get to play soccer with my friends at school and then watch a show when I get home,’ you’ll be happy and have something to look forward to,” I explained.
We went back and forth with a few more examples and discussing that we have to acknowledge how we feel, but then we have to figure out how to deal with it so we can move past it and not get stuck in the yuck.
By the time I dropped him off, he happily got out of the car and skipped into the building. I’m sure he was tired of hearing me drone on and realized school was the much better option. I headed home, still lost in my own thoughts as to why there seems to be so much drama. Why do my kids bicker at each other, poke at each others’ soft spots, highlight the others’ weaknesses and mistakes? Why are they all so eager to be King of the Mountain, gleefully stepping on one another to reach the peak?
While I was lost in thought, my daughter chattered as usual in the back seat and finally grabbed my attention when she yelled, “Gray skinny bird, Mommy! Make a wish, make a wish!” At some point in our travels past the ponds in our neighborhood, Neve and her friends determined that a wish made upon the Blue Herons comes true. “I wished that I could have a gray skinny bird for a pet,” she continued. “What did you wish for Mama?”
Having not wished on the gray bird despite its certain magical powers, I had to stop and think of what I really hoped I could bring into my life and world. “I wished that we could all be nice to each other, Neve. That everyone would just choose to be nice,” I replied.
Neve didn’t think much of my wish, but after the words escaped my mouth, they lingered in my brain for a bit. How simple and so complex. Just in my own family, my own house, what a change if we could all choose to be kind and nice to each other all of the time? To practice the Golden Rule: Treat others the way we, ourselves, want to be treated. That thought linked me to a post a high school classmate made on Facebook. Chris Bruell is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Saint Anselm College. He noted in his post that as a criminologist he is often asked by family and friends why he thinks mass killings are the new norm in our society. What is motivating people to murder innocent strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family?
Chris said he usually offered rote responses to these seemingly simple questions, but after some introspection, he shared an idea that reflects my little wish. He suggested we all think about how we treat others and then consistently make one choice:
“Maybe we can take a second to think about how our thoughts, words, and actions affect others. Maybe we can take all of these images and videos and news stories and (while they may be extreme cases) truly realize that the way that we treat others really can make a difference…except by being more understanding of others and less critical, perhaps the effects can be positive.
I’m not asking you to do something nice for someone today, I’m asking you to do so every chance you have.
These aren’t random events. Most of the shooters have felt slighted, belittled, or picked on. It’s how people respond to feeling this way that may be random.”
How we treat each other really does matter. Your choice to sow kindness and love or spew negativity and hate could one day factor into someone’s life-taking decision. So, while gun control regulations continue to be debated, while security measures are lacking, and while personal rights are being balanced with public safety, we, as individuals, have the power and the means to generate massive change ourselves. Just by being nice every chance we can.
Special thanks to Chris Bruell for his inspirational words. View his entire post.