Be Nice Until The End

Most of us run blindly through life, taking kids to football games or buying groceries or celebrating birthdays or oohing and ahhing about flower beds and great lasagna dinners, never stopping to think that one day all this wonderful madness will end. 

There are those who believe in the ever after: angels and Elysian Fields and all the chocolate you can eat.  Others believe in reincarnation: behaving yourself in this life is a sure bet you won’t come back as a newt or a grasshopper in the next.  Some believe you never wake up; others believe eternity is one big, made-for-TV movie.

But what happens if you don’t want to think about the afterlife, period?  What happens if all you want to do is get  lost in Star War movies or the Food Network or dreams of vacationing in the Bahamas?  Does avoidance equal ignorance?

I sometimes wonder if humans were meant to dwell on the afterlife as much as we do.  After all, whatever is going to happen is going to happen.  When all is said and done, if we are all going have a glorious resurrection, why should we worry about it?  If we believe our destiny is to reappear on another planet in another galaxy, why sweat the small stuff? 

None of us like to think about death.  We pop a few vitamins or walk around the block or stop smoking and think we have it made.  And, for the most part, we do.  We look around us, feel terrible about those our age who have passed on to greener pastures, and hope we can stay out of those same pastures a bit longer.

Yet there is always that heebie geebie feeling we get from that foul reaper that makes us feel we should do a bit more to insure a place in the afterlife.  Whether its prayer, abstinence, volunteering or tithing, we always make an effort to hedge our bets, putting an extra chip on the gambling table just in case.  We give a little extra to the United Way or volunteer to work the concession stand at the high school football game, even if our kid doesn’t play football.

How does that lessen our apprehension of our final moment?  How does contributing to the bake sale or adopting a pet from the shelter make us breathe easy about our last moments on Earth?

The older I get, the more I realize that all the anxiety, all the trauma I go through worrying about what happens at that final moment doesn’t mean a thing except heartburn.  One of the prices we pay for being born into this world is having to leave it at the end.  I’m not sure there is some cosmic string that is destined to be cut at some particular moment; I do believe that the joy we find in this life, and possibly the next, is based on the pleasure we give and receive from others.

Whether you read the Bible or Harry Potter, you cannot escape the fact that good deeds do not go unheeded.  That even if there is no cosmic God or Goddess who pats you on the head for being a good person, you are rewarded anyway.  There is something  about doing something nice for others — and for yourself — that brings its own brand of satisfaction.  Putting a plus in the “good” column just plain feels good.  

 I know my heart always feel better when I label myself “nice” instead of “mean.”  I feel good when I put a smile on another face; I feel bad when I make someone cry. Whether or not those points add up to admission through the pearly gates I don’t know. 

I myself don’t have a clue whether I will meet my mother and father on the other side, or if I will be reincarnated into a litter of cats.  What I do know is that it makes me feel good to do good in this world. All I can hope for is that my good behavior and loving heart will have counted for  something.  

My fear is that my repayment for being such a jolly good soul is that I come back to this world as a circus clown or born into a Green Bay Packer family.  The clown thing isn’t really very popular these days, and being a Chicago Bear’s fan…

That would be hell.

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Say Something Nice

ec33888ed1641fb0a0ec5e8f98951642I am on a new kick here.

It’s coming around slowly. I don’t always think about it, I don’t always do it. But when I do, it becomes one of those sparkly little bubbles that burst inside of me.

I’m talking about inpromptu interactions with others.

Now I know what you are thinking. Or at least what I am thinking. I don’t need new friends, I’m too busy, I’m too shy, I’m too awkward. Strangers might have cooties. I know — it’s a common misconception. (Strangers don’t always have cooties).

But I’m talking about saying something nice or making someone smile. Usually its just in passing, but there’s something about catching someone off-guard with a complement or gesture that leaves a smile lingering on both their lips and yours for some time to come.

Went to Irishfest this past weekend. A marvelous place for true-blooded and adopted Irishmen/women. Lotta love during and between songs. I saw this man waving to someone behind me, obviously getting their attention to where he was sitting. As I was walking by I leaned in and waved back. He laughed, I laughed, and I kept walking. Another granny had green flowers tucked through her grey locks. Looked special — and I told her so. I was taken with a young girl’s skirt at work, and told her so. She was delighted with her thank you, and so was I. Another woman at work has been wearing more “girly” tops, and I thought she looked great. Instead of just nodding and moving on, I told her so.

I have complemented sparkly sandals and bold necklaces. Sharp-looking men’s shirts and grandmother’s sweaters. Each time there is that nanosecond where the recipient is surprised (is she talking to me?) caught in their eye like a thief on tape. Their thank-you is always gracious, and I watch them walk away with a smile. And I wonder — why is it so hard to be nice to someone?

There is enough terrorism in the world to fill 10 planets. Enough sadness, enough psychos. Why not take someone else’s mind off their problems for a half-second and say something nice to them or about them?

Fashion is a favorite topic. I enjoy people who dress for themselves. Anything between a subtle and over-the-top statement always makes me smile. I might not wear what they wear, look how they look, but I appreciate their efforts. Just like it takes one second to bend down and say “hello” to babies and their parents or to laugh with a stranger about the rain or having to go back to work. You don’t have to know somebody to say something nice. Something funny.

So if it’s so easy to smile or nod why is it so hard to say something nice?

It’s getting passed the uncomfortableness of leaving your own space, if only for a second, and entering someone else’s special space. Maybe we’re afraid that our efforts will be rebuffed. That someone will give us “that look” and egos will be recrushed and hearts rebroken. It’s tender territory in there — that’s why you can do both parties such good.

I try to do three a day. I’ve been falling behind most days. It’s not that I’m not a nice person — it’s just that most of the time my mind is off wandering three zones ahead of me, and the realization that I’ve really “liked” something comes in a delayed reaction.

Try complimenting someone at work or at a party or shopping at Walmart. Give it the ‘ol college try.  You’ll be surprised the sunshine you’ll bring to the world.

Either that or someone will think you goofy — which, in the end, isn’t too bad a way to be viewed either —