How to be Nice and Change the World in Ten Easy Steps

1. Do you see that elderly man wearing a black cap with gold lettering on it? The one walking gently through the crowds towards the counter line at Chick-fil-A? He’s a veteran. That’s what the hat says. He’s probably seen things and done things that are hard to imagine. All in service to his country. To you. You should buy him his chicken sandwich. Even if it feels weird. Do it. And, remember to tell him, “Thank you for your service.”

2. Be honest with others. Are you struggling with something? With someone? With life in general? I bet if you shared your struggles, you’d find someone else that is struggling with similar things, too. Maybe they’ve been through what you’re going through. Maybe they, too, have been sad or mad or disappointed or stressed. Talking about our struggles helps. Life is hard and complicated and expensive and messy and if those are the only parts you’re feeling or seeing lately, talk to someone that will listen with an empathetic ear. I bet you’ll feel better.

3. This one’s important. Learn how to merge properly in traffic. You know how when you’re driving on a two-lane highway and you see a sign that your lane is closed ahead and you immediately get over into the other lane so you’re properly positioned for the lane closure? And then, when you get to the merge point right before the lane closure, someone zips up beside you and tries to cut in to your lane at the last minute and you refuse to let them merge and then you honk and they honk and then you rage and curse at them and try to do the quick math in your head on just how much your insurance rates would rise if you hit them with your car? This has happened to you, right? Listen, you need to know, THEY’RE RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG. It’s called a zipper merge and it’s the most effective and efficient way of keeping traffic moving when there is a lane closure. Everyone is supposed to drive in both lanes down to the merge point and then we all zip into place into one lane at a moderate speed. We can do this, drivers! We can get this right! We can be less angry behind the wheels of our vehicles!

zipper-merge

Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Transportation because Minnesotans are super nice and probably all know how to merge properly.

4. Can you hear that child screaming in Target? Can you hear that loud, piercing, high-pitched wail that is making you glad that whatever is making that noise does not belong to you? Well, when you round the corner and find that kid’s mom and her flailing, tantrumming toddler, you should make eye contact and give her a nod or a wink. Something that communicates solidarity in this motherhood thing. Or, a quick, sincere, “You’re doing a great job.” I know it may feel awkward but it may also make that mom’s day. Heck, maybe even dig around for that extra fruit snack in your bag and offer it up. Parenting is challenging. We’re all fighting the good fight.

5. Look, do not vote for the orange man with The Hair. He is not nice. He is the opposite of nice.

6. Don’t tell a woman to smile. (We hate this.) Or, tell her she looks tired. (We are always tired because we are busy fixing things.) Or, ask her when she’s due. (This is never, ever safe.) Basically, be careful what you say to or about women. Think things through. Your words matter. Just like we matter!

7. Ask for help when you need it. Whatever “it” may be. This can be so hard. It’s hard to admit that we need help from others. It’s hard to ask for help. But, people want to help. You should let them help! Conversely, if you see someone else that needs help, help them! Or, offer to help them. They may not want your help but your offer lets them know that someone cares. That someone is willing. That someone is there. Teach your children to help others. Normalize service. The burden is lighter when it is carried by many.

8. Wiping off the kitchen table doesn’t literally mean wiping the crumbs onto the floor. You have to wipe them into your hand. Also, you can’t nest the spoons in the dishwasher. They won’t get rinsed! Likewise, you can’t overload the washing machine. Your clothes won’t get clean and will emerge in a giant tangled ball of… not clean clothes if you stuff it full with the entire contents of your laundry basket. Wait, this kind of went off the rails here. This is pretty much all directed at my husband. I’m sorry.

9. Know that the basic hopes and dreams you have for yourself and your children – health, safety, happiness, success – are the same basic hopes and dreams that people of all races and religions and ethnicities and backgrounds have for themselves and their children. Even if their families, their marriages, their homes, their neighborhoods do not look like yours, the feeling of wanting the best for themselves and the people they love is pretty universal. We are all so similar in that regard. It’s worth remembering.

10. Be generous of spirit. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your resources.

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The sunset a couple of weeks ago because it’s important to remember that we live in a beautiful world even when it doesn’t always feel like it.

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