Monday, July 09, 2012

Take The Test!!

Though disability is in this post, this post is not about disability. Sometimes when 'disability' is in the story, it takes control of the plot and can demand more attention than its due. There, that's done, now on with the post.

I want to present three short scenarios of my day out today. I want you to think about the people I describe. Note the words you use to describe them in your mind. Here are the three things that happened:

The Father

We decided to go over to the Royal Ontario Museum to see the Beethoven exhibit, which Joe and I decided we weren't either bright enough or cultured enough to truly understand, but the drawings were, this will seem like damning with faint praise but it's not meant to, nice.

We were waiting for the elevator and the door opened, it was full of a very large family. They poured out, all talking excitedly about dinosaurs. The father was the last one out, he stepped out, stopped, turned, and held the door open for both Joe and I to enter. We said, 'Thanks!' He said, "I'm glad to do it."

The Girlfriend

On our way to the grocery store, Joe went up a few steps towards the door as I headed to the ramp. We always do this. I was heading east and a couple, a young man and a young woman, noticed, at the same time I did, that we were heading for a crash. I slowed up to let them pass, she smiled broadly and said, "Thanks," she hurried her boyfriend across my path and turned to wave another quick acknowledgement of my giving way.

The Clerk

In the grocery store, I was heading to pick up some tomatoes, I spied them and when I turned towards them I found that the store had moved a display over a few inches and I couldn't pass. A clerk walking by saw me begin to back up. She called out, "Hold up a minute!" She grabbed the display and showed what hours of working in the produce department did for strength, heaved the display back into place. As she moved it she said, "It must have been shifted when they cleaned last night, sorry." I thanked her, she accepted my thanks saying, "No, really, it's not a problem."

OK, now think of the words that came to mind when reading about these three people. I wonder if you used words like I did when these things happened.

"What a nice guy!" I thought about the dad.

"What an extremely pleasant young woman!" I thought about the girlfriend.

"What a great attitude!" I thought about the clerk.

But then I thought. "Hold up, here, wait a minute." Has it come to pass that simple civility is so noteworthy, so exceptional to be raised into characteristics to be lauded? Has it come to pass that common decency in interactions is so rare that it is treated as exceptional? Aren't we all SUPPOSED to behave that way to each other, showing courtesy and consideration? Isn't there a kind of social contract that we all have with each other that ensures that we all treat each other as if we all matter?

These things aren't KINDNESS and the people who did them aren't KIND, and their behaviours aren't NICE ... and they are only considered to be because the bar has dropped so low that anyone who shows even a teensy weensy bit of sociability and good manners is considered to be worthy of sainthood.

I liked running into people who remembered how to be people with other people.

I just don't want to accept that this is exceptional because, by doing so, I am giving up on the belief in a society built on something more that selfishness and greed. And, though sometimes I am ready to throw in the towel, I have days, like today, where I'm reminded that there are those who remember the fine art of civility.

The 'test' was to see if A) you thought these people extraordinary like I did and B) if you think that's sad.


Kimberly said...

I did think they were nice, but I didn't think that they were extraordinary in any way. I think it's good to notice a kindness, even if it is seen all the time, and it's certainly much better than taking it for granted. I've been best friends with my hubby for almost 20 years and I still notice and am grateful for the kindness of little things he does, like opening my door. It isn't that it's extraordinary, but that it's nice and even if everyone does it, it is still nice, and I notice it and I will continue to think that that is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

In this modern world it seems that everyone is raised to be something special (like a pop-star). Because many children are only children they are spoiled rotten with things and parents do not have time to give lover or be a good example as much as twenty years ago.

Egocentrycity and Selfcenteredness is something that is somehow promoted.

So yes it seems to be special to behave nice and not as selfcentered as a gyroscope.

It is something that has to be thaugth.

I am glad it happend to you.


commodorified said...

I don't think that their noticing the people around them and the assistance they need and then giving it is extraordinary.

The grace and politesse in all three cases strikes me as above average; sort of the difference between a person who lets you go first at the intersection because you have the right-of-way and the person who lets you go first with a smile and a wave, if that makes any sense?

Louna said...

The first two people struck me as just decent human beings, though the girlfriend seems to have waved and smiled a bit more than I would have expected. With the clerk, I appreciated that he saw and reacted quickly. Moving the display and being friendly were just the professional things to do, but I know (mainly from reading, I mostly walk) that this is not as normal as should be.

Shan said...

Is it wrong to say they all reminded me of myself??

(Har har...but seriously folks.)

That's my everyday behaviour.

But what I DID think was, "Whew, finally Dave caught a break!" All too often you run into the rudest, most inconsiderate people around.

Anonymous said...

I kinda disagree - the people highlighted ARE nice and they ARE kind. Just as you were to thank them. None of them had to do what they did. You may or may not have had a collision - you may or may not have got the tomatoes - but they did not have to acknowledge or help you. They chose to.

If you expect people to always perform - you will be disappointed.

Acknowledging their actions encourages them to repeat them. Positive reinforcement.

I don't feel that by not extending themselves people are saying you don't matter.

Mary said...

Yes, I thought that the father was nice, the young couple were pleasant, the store clerk was helpful. But giving them a tick in the "displayed positive attribute" box doesn't necessarily extend out to the furthest extremes of "wow, how incredible!" or make them an exception.

In a similar vein I might notice that someone's wearing a really nice pair of boots, but the fact I've noticed it doesn't make them an amazing style guru or the only person in the cafe wearing attractive shoes. And I'm pleased that my window cleaner leaves my windows clean, I thank him for doing a good job and feel satisfied that the house is more presentable again, but that doesn't make him the best window cleaner in the world or my house the most attractive one on the street.

John R. said...

yup.....I thought they were "really" nice.....and, sad fact, we have lowered a bar and civility is just plain rare....I have witnessed higher levels of garden variety civility in Japanese culture but in our Western is rare....

glad you had a trifecta of niceness!!!

Team Lando said...

Nice? Yep. Exceptional? Perhaps, but not because of being nice. You'd have to get to know them.

Anonymous said...

Nice? Yes. All would have brought a smile to my face. Exceptional? Not really.

It's possible that if everybody were polite all the time like they're supposed to be, we'd raise the bar for our expectations as well, and subsequently most folks would still not meet those newer, stricter standards.

It's the clods amongst us who help us identify and appreciate niceness. They have to coexist to be differentiated. Like good & evil.

And I agree with Anonymous 3:30 in that I always like to reward niceness with a bit of my own. Hoorah for positive reinforcement!


joanne said...

I believe that people think they are way too busy and forget to be polite sometimes. My usual habit in the grocery store, when someone behind me has one or two items, is to let them go ahead. How nice it was when someone allowed me to go ahead this past weekend. I thanked her appropriately, but I hope not too nicely. We shouldn't treat ordinary "extraordinary".

Jan Goldfield said...

The word 'normal' immediately came to mind. Would that 'normal' would be everywhere.

Ettina said...

Nice, yes. Exceptional, some of them. The store worker, it's part of her job description to be nice to customers. (I have met unfriendly workers, they're the ones I find exceptional.) But random public is pretty varied, and it seems most of them just ignore others.

Personally, I disagree with your idea that we shouldn't be grateful for what we should expect. We should work with society where it's at, and reward any sign of progress. Kind of like how you'd praise a 6 year old's printing even though the letters are huge and awkward looking, because for that 6 year old, that's unusually good performance. But the important thing is to raise expectations as things improve.

For example, it used to be that allowing women into technical/specialist schools was exceptional, and no one would complain if women were still rare in those schools. Now, no schools forbid women, but feminists are taking aim at the ones that are set up so few women enter and many drop out. What was exceptional in the past is now ordinary.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing the point but....
I (still) think it's ordinary to be nice and kind. So I did think, nice, kind, but I didn't think extraordinary. I think they and their actions ARE nice and kind, because I think niceness, kindness and civility are ordinary. I'm not arguing against that there are lots of times when people don't behave in this way, just I choose to continue to believe that niceness and kindness is the usual, the way it is.
At risk of being a bit blunt, but I notice that as people get older tend not to see the world this way. I think I learned my faith in goodness from my dad, but now as he's getting older, he talks like the world is going to hell in a handcart and we are all doomed by the selfishness and stupidity of people.
And I think that both, that all perspectives are ordinary, just what is ordinary for me might not be ordinary for you. And (I think) that might be diversity.

Amanda said...

I just was in a similar situation, sort of. A disabled guy introduced himself to a disability group I'm part of, noting that he had some opinions that were unpopular there. He was clearly nervous and to compensate he stated them forcefully. And quickly someone poured vitriol all over him for his opinion and then ended their rant with "WE DON'T NEED YOU". I wrote a long response about how communities have to be centered around compassion if they're communities in anything but name, and how I had no problem with him being there and that people need to not be hateful just for having a dissenting opinion. The guy thanked me. I felt bad. I felt bad that he expected so little that what I did seemed exceptional enough to thank. So I thanked him but said what I did was just the decency anyone should have. It makes me feel horrible the hate that is out there in communities that claim to be my community.

Belinda said...

I loved John R.'s phrase " a trifecta of niceness." I think I want to try ordering that for dessert one day and see what happens. :) "Nice" is lovely where you find it, and noteworthy too, I think! There can never be too much of it. Sometimes I'm nice and sometimes not but I always wish to be.

Anonymous said...

I think it's common for people to be courteous . . . and I hope that we remain aware and feel delight in those little courtesies . . . and that they don't become "wallpaper."

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's sad to take note and find pleasure in the simple acts of common courtesty that occur in my life. In fact I try to do that often as possible. It is when I only stop and take note of the negative that I feel I am concentrating on the wrong things.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
I am from Boston. I LOVE it when people show common manners and take time to be kind. I thanks them. IT IS EXTRAORDINARY, at least down here. Most people are rude, push, ignore me and real fights happen often over nothing. Driving is dangerous. We collectively earned the nickname Massholes. I am ablebodied (or whatever it is called these days), and still face rude,unkind, closeminded people everyday. Hurray for nice people! 3 in a day? WOW
Maybe if I wore a yellow pill box hat with a fetching veil people would be nicer to me?
Have a NICE day!