The Importance of Being Nice

Something happened to me at work yesterday that brought to mind an experience that seemed insignificant at the time:

A few months ago, a friend and I were shopping at the Summit Mall. We needed to refuel, so we headed to Starbucks for some caffeine. When we got there, we were surprised to see a small army of children, eyes fixated on two rainbow-clad performers / singers. It was really cute, but we were a little panic-stricken that these concert-goers were standing in the way of us and our java. Thankfully, mall security had (smartly) roped off a pathway to Starbucks. While we were waiting in line, we listened to a few of the songs, including one that said:

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

So, what made me think of that random event? Yesterday, my work day started like any other: get ready, eat breakfast, find a parking spot, walk to the office. Every morning, I pass the same two administrative assistants, and every morning, I smile and say good morning to them. But yesterday was different: when I said good morning, one of them said to me:

“I always love it when you’re in the office, Whitney. I can be having the worst day, but you always make me feel better. You’re like sunshine.”

When the other woman agreed, I was so touched that I actually started crying.

I can honestly say that is one of the best things anyone has ever said to me. That remark goes WAY beyond “I like your shirt!” or “Your hair looks really nice today”: compliments that always bring a smile to our face and make our day a little better. She complimented who I am and how I make her feel, fundamental things that cannot be highlighted with make-up or improved by a new pair of jeans.

Her words meant more to me than I could ever express with words, but they also got me thinking: what did I do that would make her say that? I always say good morning, smile when I see them and ask how they are doing. I wouldn’t classify those things as anything “above and beyond” normal office conduct. But apparently, it is.

And truthfully, that really bothers me. I try to live by what my parents taught my sister and me: No matter what you or others might think, you are not above anyone else. Treat the janitor the same way as you would the CEO. In other words:

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

This is truly an essential lesson for children to learn, however, the older I get, the more I think it’s a lesson more adults need to re-learn. In a world where people do crazy, stupid and dangerous things for money and fame, we seem to be losing touch with what really matters. Money will not visit you when you’re sick, but family will. A fancy car will not help you through a break-up, but friends will. Power does not make people respect you, but kindness will.

When I think about the people I respect, I’m relieved that I can say I admire these people for their kindness, honesty and sacrifice. In short, they are all GOOD people. They may not have piles of money, a fancy job title or paparazzi following their every move, but they are rich in so many other ways. And I believe that for this, they will be rewarded in ways far superior to money and power. If that doesn’t make being nice important, I don’t know what does.

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9 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Nice

  1. Yep, teary eyed! Random acts of kindness, whether giving or receiving, are life’s precious moments. Enjoy reading your posts, CC!! Love you so…

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