On Being Nice (Especially During Holidays)

Yesterday, Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a blog post about empathy and being kind during the holidays. I read it and nodded a lot because this is something that I value quite a bit year-round. I do my best to be calm and considerate when talking to customer service agents, whether on the phone or in person. I try to be friendly with food service staff and leave decent tips. Things don’t always go right, and sometimes my patience is tested, but I always try to stop and ask myself if the problem is the fault of the person I’m dealing with and how that particular person deserves to be treated. For most of them, they are just doing their job, and all too often their jobs result in them being treated as less than human.

In writing, people are often discouraged from using the word “nice.” What does “nice” mean? It’s a vague, fluffy sort of word. You can be more specific. Sure. But when it comes to just being a human being and going about your daily life, the importance of being “nice” cannot be emphasized enough. Being nice can make all the difference in getting what you want out of other people. And it will almost always make you and whomever you are dealing with much, much happier.

Being nice is important all year, but I think it is especially important during the holiday season. The holidays are an incredibly happy time for a lot of people, but they can also be very difficult. For some people, it is their first Hanukkah or Christmas without a loved one due to a breakup or a death. Others may be struggling with spending the holidays alone, unable to go home for financial reasons or work obligations or whatever else. Some people may have to spend a lot of the holidays working long hours or being yelled at while others are rejoicing about time off. The holidays are not always happy, unfortunately, and the heightened enthusiasm of everyone else can sometimes make that even harder. The point of this is simply that you don’t always know what people are going through, and when deciding how you will interact with them, being polite and kind is never a bad policy.

I’m extremely grateful to the many blog and Twitter friends I have made who have been unbelievably nice to me, even though I have never personally met most of them. I wanted to share my thanks for them, but also to use their generosity as a reminder that you cannot know how much of a difference a simple act of kindness can make in somebody else’s life.

Thank you to all of you who have contributed to my card shelves! They make me smile every time I look at them. I’m not always very good about sending out holiday cards, but this will hopefully spur me to do better in the future because I know I really appreciate receiving them.

I also really, really want to thank Twan. Twan is one of my Twitter friends and an amazing IYL contributor. At one point she asked me for my address, and I kind of forgot about it, and then I got a box covered in fun stickers and I opened it up and it was full of awesome things. And then I cried. (And now I am crying a lot more.) Not because I love chocolate that much (though I kind of do), but because it showed that somebody out there is paying attention when I ramble on Twitter about how I would really love some Tim Tams and Cadbury Flake or about how much I love when people include Wiki in cards and presents. And that someone is nice enough to then go out of their way to put those things in a box and decorate it and send it to me even though we have never met in person (sadly) is something that totally overwhelms me.

Even though I’ve been struggling a lot with being so far away from a lot of the people I love lately, I really appreciate these reminders that being far away does not have to stop you from reaching out and doing nice things for people. So I’m going to try a little harder to send people cards and care packages during the holidays and throughout the year. And I hope you all will too.

Happy Holidays, blog readers. I’m so grateful for all of you, and I hope that whatever you celebrate (or don’t celebrate), you have a wonderful last week of 2011, and that you and the people you care about end this year on a high note.


6 Responses to "On Being Nice (Especially During Holidays)"

  • Oh, Melanie you are such a wonderful and amazing person! I am so glad to know you and have met you. 🙂

    I love the love that is in the blogging community — we often send each other things as gifts and offer our books and send candies to complete strangers. I love that.

    Are you stuck in NY for the holidays? I have all of next week off so maybe we could hang out or something?

    1 April (Books&Wine) said this (December 23, 2011 at 4:28 PM)

  • Aww, what a great post! The blogging community really is so awesome. 😀

    2 Jessica Love said this (December 23, 2011 at 6:24 PM)

  • I agree with you, Melanie…think of how much energy we waste when we get all upset…mostly about things we can’t do anything about. I hesitated at the red light yesterday and got a long long drawn out honk right behind me that scared the life out of me. I looked up to see the person behind me screaming and gesturing for me to GO! We were in holiday traffic and honestly I just felt sorry for that person. I picked up the few items I needed and went on home after that. I don’t want to see that side of people. I become a true “reclusive bibliophile” during the holidays.

    3 Patti Smith said this (December 23, 2011 at 6:48 PM)

  • Melanie, I always think you are amazing and am thrilled and grateful to be your mom. You constantly make me proud! I love this blog post and have to say I wish I could share it with some of those I deal with in retail during the holidays. Those on the road would do well to be reminded too. I have been cut off twice in the last three days only to find them next to me at the red light we were coming upon.
    Love you and yes I wish you were here.
    Mom and Dad, Hunter and Echo, Sofa and Rennie

    4 Judy said this (December 23, 2011 at 7:42 PM)

  • YOU make so many of my days incredibly better <3 so thank you for that.

    5 Ginger @ GReads! said this (December 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM)

  • I’m hugging this post. And squeezing it really tight.

    6 capillya said this (December 23, 2011 at 9:57 PM)