For many years, I was subject to depression and debilitating allergies that so enervated me, getting out of bed in the morning was about all I could handle. Then there were the years my life mate/soul mate was dying, where I hunkered down in my emotional foxhole, trying to protect myself from the pain with which life was bombarding us. During these times, whenever I’d go out among people, all I ever seemed to see were happy, healthy, and energetic folks, which made me feel as if I were alone in my misery.
It wasn’t until I signed up for Facebook and started making contact with all sorts of people that I discovered the truth in their status updates. Everyone is struggling with something — illness, disability, debility, depression, grief. Even if people aren’t struggling with such a difficulty themselves, they are taking care of someone with a problem. The strong, healthy people I saw were probably normally traumatized people on their good days.
I’m learning to be nice to everyone, even people with a bad attitude. Anger, rudeness, pettiness, are all signs of unhappiness and discontent, and chances are, the misery stems from actual problems, not just a desire to be mean. In a strange sort of way, how people treat me is not my problem. Their inconsideration is a reflection of them, not me. My only responsibility is in my own reaction, and — in an ideal world — I would always choose to be nice. Life of course, is not always ideal, and I sometimes I let my own problems dictate my behavior, especially when those problems entail a lack of sleep, such as the episodes with my afflicted brother.
One of my favorite scenes in a film is in the 1989 movie Roadhouse where Patrick Swayze is discussing his policy with the bouncers. “Be nice,” he says. He goes on to tell them that no matter what anyone does, be nice. And he ends, “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” It’s a good policy for anyone, being nice.
Sure, we have problems, but everyone else does too. So let’s pretend this is an ideal world, and let us all be nice.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.