Jul 31, 2007


I know about four people who've been hit crossing the street. One of them, in particular, nearly bit the dust and do you know what she said was the worst part? The recovery? The six surgeries it took for her to recover? Nope. That after, with two broken legs, a concussion, half of her face bonked in, a broken pelvis, a broken collar bone, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and with blood everywhere, a crowd of people stood there looking at her, and not one person stopped and sat with her and said, "You're going to be okay." I know, I know, we live in litigious society, and we're all afraid of getting sued. I get that. I don't want to get sued, either. (Though, how funny for someone to try to sue me. They'd get like a pen, a jar of spicy mustard and a can of cat food!) We also live in a world with very real epidemiological concerns like HIV/AIDS and administering first aid without, say, gloves could mean handling contaminated blood. But, you know what? Big fucking deal. I'd still go sit with an injured person until help arrived.

One winter, I slipped on icy stairs, skinned my knee and sprained my ankle. Nothing major, but, still, uncomfortable, right? I hit the ground, the contents of my purse went everywhere, and my ankle hurt. Scrambling to get my purse put back together and to get to my feet, no lie, three people snarked to me. Three people! "Get out of the road, clutz!", "We're trying to walk here, lady!" and shit like that. Rude! Not one person stopped to help me pick anything up, not one person noticed a bloody knee and a hobbly foot and said, "Hey, are you okay?"

When I has my big ugly car accident a few years ago, I was in and out for a bit, but one thing that sticks out so clearly to me is coming to and feeling a set of hands belonging to a witness to the accident, a truck driver who climbed behind my seat somehow and held my shoulders to the seat with his forearm and patted the top of my head while holding my head to the headrest with his hand. To this day, I remember exactly what his hand felt like on my forehead and I remember that he wore Polo cologne. No lie. I remember that clear as anything. He wasn't thinking, "Ew, that chick might be sick, I can't touch her. I might get HIV" he wasn't thinking, "I don't want her to sue me". He saw an injured person, a human being, with the front half of a car in her lap and was a fucking stand-up guy.

I've overheard some dreadful conversations in the last couple of days and I'm not feeling so solid about people today. I'm starting to worry we suck so hard that we're lost. I keep thinking about that beautiful thing Margaret Sartor said on here the other day when I interviewed her: "I believe that compassion is a kind of power and kindness may be the one virtue that can save us all — if it’s not already too late." And, I believe that so hard that it almost makes my chest hurt. You guys, that sentence is my religion, my world view, a summary of everything I really believe in.

So, I don't ask a lot of you guys. But, I want everyone to do me a favor today.

I want everyone to give someone a compliment that has nothing to do with their physical appearance. I mean it. "Hey, Sexy Mama I'll give you something to smile about!" doesn't count. Neither does, "Gee, Billy, your new boy band highlights make you look so tan!" and really, just for today, let's skip, "Ramona! You really are so much more confident since your boob job!" Think of it this way: Imagine we all look the same. We're all androgynous little alien things with big, buggy eyes and the only thing we are valued for is how we treat ourselves and each other. That's it. Pretend everyone is paid the same, every home is the same, every body is the same and every skin is the same. The only thing that makes us special are our hearts and heads. Got it?

I want to believe deep down so badly that people are really good and will do the right thing when put to the test (or, even in just the day-to-day), and see the good in other people, and will see people for who they are and not what they look like, but sometimes, I worry. Don't get me wrong, coming from someone with an opinion we value, especially a partner/spouse/significant other, a "you look great today" makes us feel good and special. No doubt. But, I'm just asking us to stretch our brains and hearts a little bit and show a little love. That's all. No biggie. Not the end of the world.

As a favor to me, give someone a little smile from an deeper, more honest place, not a surfacey, superficial one. Forgotten how? Here, try something like this, "Hey, Billy Joe Jim Bob, I really appreciate you helping me out the other day when I was frustrated at work." or "You know, April May June, you tell the funniest stories! You're a riot!" It doesn't have to be a big schmaltzy ordeal. It doesn't have to be a thing. Just a little smile from one buggy-eyed alien to another.

Mastered that? Great, try this one. Go offer to help someone out. For real. Again, I'll script it for you, "Hey, Neighborino, since you're going on vacation, do you want me to pick up your mail and newspapers for you? It's no trouble." or "Hey, Betty Sue, you seem busy today. I'm going to Taco Bell to grab a little lunch. Would you like me to pick up something for you?"

And, if you're really feeling the karmic love at this point, I dare you, I double-dog dare you, to humble your ass for a moment and ask someone to teach you something. "Wow, Biff, what a beautiful Alpaca scarf you knitted. Would you teach me how you did that?" or "Gosh, Muffy, you're so great with Excel spreadsheets. Will you give me a few pointers?"

How hard could any of this possibly be?

What's the worst that could happen?

And, as a final request, if you find yourself thinking something rotten about someone, think of something positive, too. This one can be horribly difficult, I know. But maybe when you find yourself looking at a skanked-out chick and thinking, "Oy, what a hoebag", maybe add a little, "Poor girl probably thinks her only value is on the outside." Just think about the B-side for one second. One measly second. Maybe the quiet woman in your office isn't a snob, but shy and dying for someone to talk to her. Maybe the crazy asshole next door isn't so much crazy as he is fed up with you watching Barney Miller reruns at 3am at top volume.

Maybe we're all forgetting about our buggy-eyed alien, pink-underbelly, only-human selves too often.

And, right on cue, just as I wrote that last paragraph, two Paris Hilton clones busted in the door of the coffeeshop I write from, loudly giggling about how fat they feel, how coked-out they were last night, how one is "so hungry" but "can only get a skim latte" while ragging the other about ordering "all those carbs" in sandwich bread. I want to said, dumb ass coked-out competitive Hilton skank, bringing your dumb ass coked-out friend down, but I'll instead say something more along the lines of, poor insecure woman, it's a shame they have to compete like that instead of having a nice afternoon together.

Well, either that, or something far more positive like, it'll be a lot more pleasant in here when those dumb ass coked-out competitive Hilton skanks get the fuck out of here and let me write in peace.

I try, people. I really do.


Leen said...

Being positive can be a real bitch, but you are good to try and to spread the good word!

Anonymous said...

I am contacting my solicitor

I want that jar of spicy mustard and the cat food!

As far as the niceness fest, may I say:

Your outstanding mathematical ablilities give me the horn?

jewgirl said...

ames, you're a riot. what a beautiful post and such an important reminder of how to BEHAVE. to be decent and to be human.

I love sartor's quote.

ps: fabulous ending. ha!

Talia said...

Here's a little something to ease your disillusionment of the human race: a few weeks ago I ran out of gas on a country road. I called my brother and while he was on his way with a gas can (my guage wasn't working by the way) every car, which granted was only 3 cars, stopped to see if I needed help.

Maybe you should go watch "It's a Wonderful Life."

Amy's Mom said...

The book "The Power of Nice" highlights 6 points.
"1. Positive impressions are like seeds. The power of nice has a domino effect. That effect may not be immediately apparent but will eventually find it way back.
2. You never know. A stranger on the street may seem insignificant, but could be related to your boss or client.
3. People change. Treat everyone with respect. Today's clerk could be tomorrow's CEO.
4.Nice must be automatic. It loses it effectiveness if used only sporadically.
5. Negative impressions are like germs. The flip side of the first step above.
6. You will know. The effects of your actions may not be seen but they are felt, if only by you. Treating others with kindness, respect and generosity will be repaid with interest."
This was in a publcation that I just read.
I have read this book and will probably dig it out and re-read it. It should be requied reading of everyone.
I really believe that what goes around, comes around. So to all the not so nice ones, watch out.

Amy Guth said...

Oh SNAP! My Mama done tol' you!

Anonymous said...

You are SO right about that!

People are so busy they forget they're people!

Be nice, it goes a long ways!

deadspot said...

Does it count if I just refrain from being horrible to people that really, really, really deserve it?

I think that, at least for today, that is just about all I can muster.

Bubs said...

Brilliant post. One of the most important things someone can do for someone who's badly hurt is simply BE THERE WITH THEM, and physical touch makes a huge difference, just staying with them and holding onto them.