(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
I don’t know what had happened only a few minutes before but the scene that played out at the traffic light was not a good one. The man in the truck in front of me stopped at the light and immediately snatched open the driver’s door and proceeded to yell at the driver in the car which was located behind me. He was very loud and was saying: “O.K….get out! Get out of the car! He also used a few words which will not do to include in this little article but needless to say he was ready to fight and if the man had gotten out of his car, I don’t know what would have ensued. It would not have been good at all. But, more and more I am finding that people in general are not as nice as they used to be. We are all living on the edge of frustration and aggravation to the point that many people are explosive at the slightest thing.
It is sad to see this happening to America because for so many years, people were basically nice to each other. They would smile before they would frown. They would laugh before they would scowl. In previous years I remember being taught by my parents and grandparents that we were to be nice to others. There was a certain decorum which was passed along and it promoted friendliness and peace.
Where is that today? Lord knows that we need some niceties in our society today. Just go in any store in the mall or anywhere else and present yourselves as a customer searching for some product. Remember the days when a clerk would say: “Good morning, may I help you?” Then they would assist you with a smile on their face as you looked for the goods you desired. Compare that to today when a clerk hardly notices you and after a length of time will finally come over and act as they are doing you a favor and fully radiating the fact that you have interrupted their day and that they don’t care if you buy something or not. There is no friendliness and certainly no being nice and appreciative of the fact that you might spend some your money with the company that pays them to be there to assist you, the customer.
Have you noticed that you can speak to someone who will look at you in return as if you were a serial killer or something. They won’t say a single word in response to your attempt to be friendly. And, if you happen to smile while you are greeting a person, they act as if you have something wrong with you. It is odd to speak and smile to a person, say, in the grocery store as they are approaching you in the aisle, and for that person to react as if someone just stole the chocolate off their candy bar. As one who was taught to smile, speak in a friendly manner and generally be nice to everyone it is weird to get some of the non-responses one gets today. There are those who will speak in a friendly manner but their number is decreasing in today’s world. These unfriendly people don’t look happy at all. It seems that they are so deep into their unhappy mood that being nice just won’t surface.
As a Pastor, I always tried to be nice and friendly to everyone because it was my habit of life to do so, but also because I knew that most people needed a friendly lift. In fact, most people expected the Pastor to be nice and friendly to them and if he was more “muted” they would complain about the fact that he was not as nice as he was expected to be. There is something warming and satisfying about a friendly exchange between two people. I have often met some of the best people by speaking, smiling and simply being nice. There are times when a simple “hello, how are you today” has engendered a long conversation and the discovery a new friend.
But beyond those interpersonal “nice” moments, these things called “manners” which in times past were part of the basic instructions on life, seem to be in low supply these days. “Excuse me, please”, “thank you very much” and “may I help you” are losing their visibility as society makes the change that is taking place today. People are just walking on by as if they are trying to get away from someone being sociably nice. I was taught to say “yes, mam” and “no, mam” but you had better be careful who you say those things to today. Can’t be too nice you know. I was taught to hold the door open for a lady or for anyone for that matter. Most of the time a person will say “thank you” but more and more a person walks in without a word. Good, old fashioned Southern chivalry is a practice which isn’t appreciated like it once was.
America needs a good, old-fashioned dose of “nice.” It might help us through some of the difficult moments we are now facing in our world. In speaking of our relationship to others, the Apostle Paul offers this good advice: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceable with all men.”, Romans 12:18. This is the way Christ would have us relate to others and this is what we should strive for. It just makes life more pleasant for everyone.
So, my advice is that a person should remember to be nice and considerate at every opportunity. Let’s see if we can rescue the practice of being “nice” as much as we can. Then no one would have to ask, “Whatever Happened to Being Nice?”
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 48 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 30 of those years. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com