Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect: A Nice Person in a Nice Person's Body

I've always thought of myself as a nice person. As a faithful person. As an honest person. A moral, trustworthy, conscientious person. But sometimes I'm a nice person trapped in a mean person's mind, heart, mouth, and body. Since I became a mom, my nice has been nicer and my mean, well, it's actually been meaner. I could blame hormones or lack of sleep for the extremes. I could blame my fierce desire to protect Audrey for the rage that takes over my gut in response to all things that threaten her (the barking dog, the guy driving too fast down our street, the neighbors' chickens). But, excuses are for lazy idiots. And, I will not make excuses (any more) for setting a poor example for my daughter.

I will be a nice person. And it will take practice and deliberate intention.

A few weeks ago, I read this blog post about doing nice things: O My Family - Friendly Friday,  and thought to myself, "Kate, you are so blessed - you should do more nice things for people."  Okay. I didn't exactly think that.  But, the post did sit in the back of my mind for a few days and I debated doing something nice so that I could blog about it and post it on O My Family. Then, I thought that doing something nice for that purpose alone was not actually nice, but self-serving. So, I split the difference and did something nice but didn't write about it or link it up. But now, O My Family is smacking its readers around and challenging us to seriously do something nice AND blog about it. See how she does it gently right here. So fine. I'll do it. Not because I need to share what I did. But because maybe, like O My Family did for me, it will encourage you to do something nice too. 

What I did:  I never, I mean never, give change to homeless people on the street. I maybe give a smile. But, usually, even if my hand is in my pocket clutching wads of cash, I just walk. on. by.  I have two excuses for dismissing the homless' cries for help. #1 - The person claiming to be homeless may not actually be homeless. Maybe they just don't want to get a job. Maybe they just want to drink or do drugs all day. Maybe they are lazy. Maybe they are a bad person and that's why they don't have a family to live with. #2 - If I give the money in my pocket to a reputable organization instead, then I know that it's going to be used for people who "really need it." But let's be honest, I rarely ever give the money to any organization, much less a reputable one.

Well, the other week, I was walking to Panera downtown to buy lunch. I passed no fewer than 3 people, sitting on the ground with signs and cups in hand. I started repeating excuses #1 and #2 to myself.  But then, as the sun shone down on me and my clean clothes and my new shoes and my trendy purse full of cash money and a jazzy cell phone featuring photos of my adorable baby, funny puppy, and handsome husband, it dawned on me: "Kate. These people are sitting on the dirty ground in a busy city. They have cardboard signs and plastic cups full of nickles and dimes. They are asking for your help. You can give them a little bit of what they are asking for and it won't affect your happiness or wealth one stinkin bit. Who are you to judge if they 'really need it'?" That last part got me. I'm not here to judge (though I do it on a regular basis). So instead of judging the sign-toters and choosing to ignore them, I judged their signs. The last one, held by a young woman strategically sitting outside of Panera, asked specifically for food. She likes muffins and lemonade. She told me this as I handed her a muffin and a lemonade.

Trying to be a nice person in a nice person's body,


  1. Kate! I so hear you. I had all the same reasons until I read the book "Under the overpass". It totally changed my view on homelessness. Way to go and like you said it's not for us to judge. We see the need and meet it.

  2. I also struggle with giving change to the homeless, especially since I've worked in psychiatric hospitals, and I know that some people specifically get by just on panhandling to get their food/alcohol etc. But I do want to help... the solution I've come up with is occasionally buying a sandwich, a big bottle of gatorade, an extra hot coffee, wherever I tend to be purchasing my food, and handing it to the homeless person hanging out around the entrance. That way I know I'm actually given something that will sustain them, and I can feel okay about. There are few things more basic than giving another human being food or drink...

    Also, love reading your blog, Kate :) Keep on writing, please