Random Acts of Niceness

At what point did a traditional reminder to toddlers become a necessary rule for adults?

This, along with quirky plot lines and bizarre character names, ran through my mind the other day.

'Be Nice' was scrawled across a wrinkled piece of foolscap paper and taped crookedly to the door of a coffee shop, capturing a sense of desperation that is more in keeping with a ransom note or a letter to an ex that someone's trying to keep from walking out the door. It did not instill the hope that this business was trying to spread some much-needed love in our recently isolated world.

Reminders that being kind will make someone's day better is a revelation in a world consumed by non-stop drama. Threats and ultimatums are now mainstays in offices where gratitude and good work ethic were expected traits in everyone over the age of five.

I wish I could say that I found calm and peace in reading that sign. But, sadly, I cannot.

As soon as I was met with the steely glare of the barista, whose scraping glance across the edge of her mask warned me to not add more than two options to the already overpriced coffee that I knew I was going to complain about purchasing once I left, I began planning my overly contrived appreciation at the end of our transaction.

Cold coffee? Not a problem - "Have a nice day," I call out from below the layer of cotton stretched across my face while bringing a smile to my eyes.

The contents of the cup half an inch below the rim? I didn't need all that caffeine anyway - "See you next time!" I wave with the tip of my fingers as I stroll out the door.

But it doesn't stop at the five-dollar and seventy-five cent treat.

Social Media groups, employment contracts, and the pop-up restaurant built on the edge of a parking lot all include addendums outlining the rules of conduct should you wish to participate or operate within their sphere.

Articles on the importance of being nice flood the internet; however, be warned as you prep yourself to search out these stories of hope, there also seems to be a plethora of warnings that engaging in the dangerous act of kindness can also harm you.

I was reminded of my final year of grade school, as our gym teacher was leading the class in the instruction on the regulations and characteristics of the game of dodgeball.

"Players must not help their teammates in catching, throwing, etcetera," our surly guide boomed.

I understood the catching and throwing aspect of the game, it was the etcetera that had me concerned. Were helpful players removed from the property? Was there a financial or social standing penalty leveled on children who were less agile than their thirteen-year-old counterparts? Shaking bodies and pale faces of pre, post (and some way past) pubescence teens glanced around the room at the more confident classmates who were gathered at the front of the group cracking their necks and knuckles in unison.

Already a less than enthusiastic participant in this questionable sport, I prepared myself for a desperate dash behind the largest kid in the class the instant our sweaty gym teacher blew his whistle. Within the first few minutes, the teachings of Darwin were made clearer than when explained by Mrs. Simpson during our social studies class, as classmates limped off the gym floor, dragging their welt-covered legs and holding their arms around their waists. The entire time gripping the bottom of their lips with their teeth holding back the tears that would have to wait until they got home to shed. (It was the end of the 70s and weakness and retreat were direct editorials of your parents' ability to raise you.)

As far as my placement in the measure of natural selection, I probably would have made it somewhere beyond the extinction of the dinosaurs, but not much further. I joined my comrades in welts as we waited on the bench for the advanced members of our society to complete their skirmish on the shiny amber battlefield. I relaxed, thankful for the deep olive skin tone I was blessed with at birth since it would hide the inevitable bruising, while the larger child who unknowingly shielded me from the initial onslaught of rubber, did his best to keep from crying.

It would be several more months until I was free from the petri dish of grade school and be wrapped in the protection of semi-adulthood of high school. Little did I know that dodgeball and the large child who shielded me from early elimination would prepare me for the psychotic sports parents and dishonest teachers that awaited me as a mother.

Instead, I was grateful that my chosen activity that I excelled at was a water sport. And up until I stopped swimming competitively, there had not been an attempted drowning during a race.

I slid next to Tony, the large boy who was unaware he had been my protector for a whole one-hundred and twenty-two seconds, and gently elbowed him and smiled. I thanked him for helping me during the game and asked if his leg was going to be alright. Not because there was a sign on the wall in the gym or that our teacher had warned us that being unkind could have us removed from the class. I did it because it was the right thing to do and, well, because I wasn't a jerk.

This, and other life lessons is the reason I won't need a sign to remind me to be nice to the angry barista slumped behind the counter because in the end everyone has a story and a small dose of appreciativeness and kindness might actually make a difference.


L.L. Abbott is an author, blogger and small business owner. Humor, murder and hope round out the themes of her writing and musings. Follow along on social media and visit Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble for all published works.