As children we are taught that being nice is a good thing. “That was very nice of you.” As parents we teach our children to be nice to each other. “Be nice to your brother.” Generally speaking, we learn about being nice. We don’t learn about kindness.
Kindness is not something we are taught. It is an instinct. We either have it, or we don’t. I know this because as a person who lives with a disability, I am the beneficiary of random acts of kindness each and every day. As a result, I have also learned the difference between being kind and being nice. Nice is passive. Kindness never is.
As a healthy person living in the city, I never would have anticipated that the world was such a kind place. Have you ever tried to change lanes on a Southern California freeway? It often seems that most other drivers are just not letting you in. You have to ‘push’, be aggressive, make your way in to that next lane. We are taught to ‘drive defensively’ and that takes on a whole different meaning around here, especially on the freeways.
We are taught that nice guys finish last. We run to get a place in line at restaurants or movies so that we will beat others to it and don’t have to wait so long. We are taught to look out for Number One, because if you don’t, nobody will. Right? Not necessarily.
MS is a progressive disease. This means that my physical disability has become more evident over time. The more evident the disability, the more acts of kindness are bestowed upon me. Sometimes it is a small gesture, sometimes big. Often it comes from complete strangers. Regardless of the source or size, being that beneficiary has taught me that the world is an extremely kind place.
The instinct to help, to go out of your way for another person and to show consideration to a complete stranger, exists in a big way in our modern world. Whether it is the opening of a door, helping with a bag or chair, or just the offering to help, it is a constant in my life. It is also something that I never expected or would have anticipated.
Nice is good. But you can be nice and do nothing. Kindness is outstanding. It only exists when somebody is doing something. Do you know what kindness did for me? It changed the way I see the world.
Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.