Something big happened today.
A complete stranger was really, really nice to me.
And get this….
…..there was no ulterior motive!
The scene of this
crime gesture was at the doors of a Glasgow church hall.
Steam was coming out of my ears.
I had just humphed a buggy down a ma-hoo-sive hill at high speed, braving our August monsoon to attend a local toddler group for the first time.
Despite previously being a human being
semi-capable of performing a high stress job, I find these kind of firsts particularly nerve-wracking; my daily deadlines these days fraught with domestic bear traps, set to prevent me from getting out of the front door in any kind of organised or timely manner.
Unsurprisingly, today was to be no different and, if anything, was worse.
When I arrived at the church hall (dishevelled, grumpy and approximately thirty minutes late) you can perhaps imagine my reaction when I established that the doors were in fact locked.
It later transpired I was so damn organised* that I had actually turned up a week early.
*Alas though, I cannot take credit for this – the organiser had emailed me the wrong term dates.
Just as I was about to flick the vees at The Big Man, a porthole in the iron door snapped open. And then the door itself creaked too, revealing a portly lady with a big smile.
“Och, come away my dear. Out the rain. You’ll catch your death!”
Think Mrs Doubtfire.
My gut reaction was to say “no, it’s ok thanks,” and then have a minor rant about the community centre administrator being a disorganised muppet before duly stomping off.
But somehow, I resisted.
My second reaction was of suspicion. I won’t go into the ins and outs of my religious beliefs (or otherwise), but let’s just say that I didn’t fancy being held hostage in a church, forcing polite conversation with little prospect of quick escape.
Long story short, Lynne (the church’s cleaner and congregation member), as I now know her to be, somehow managed to coax me inside with the promise of tea and biscuits and a haven from the rain.
With a tetchy wet toddler in tow it seemed churlish to refuse, despite my inner teenager screaming at me to cut my nose off to spite my face and trudge back home immediately.
And, you know what, I’m so glad I went in.
Lynne was warm, lovely and delighted to feed my daughter biscuits in return for her babble and smiles. She told me about her upcoming wedding and hopes for a family of her own in the future in some form, acknowledging her middle age. Not once did she mention Sunday school.
I left an hour later, still in the pouring rain, but with a smile on my face and no feelings of having had a wasted trip.
And no, I haven’t been radicalised but I did discover a beautiful bright, welcoming space lurking despite the foreboding exterior. Perfect for toddlers to run wild.
Maybe that’s just the Christian spirit, or maybe not, but there was certainly no moral obligation upon her to offer me shelter from the storm.
Either or both ways, Lynne was just a very very nice woman.
Nevertheless, this incident prompted me to examine what it means in my world to be nice in favour form.
I’m sad to say that today made me realise that I hardly ever offer to do people favours just to be *nice* anymore.
*I distinguish this from grudgingly saying “yes” when specifically asked to do someone a favour.*
Like passing the salt, or something.
I used to be a much kinder person, I think. Then I got old, or cynical or ? Or maybe life just got faster; interactions more fleeting. The advent of social media making human contact less relevant.
I’m now that woman struggling with a screaming child at the top of the stairs with fifty shopping bags, people just walking past like I’m invisible. But it’s also true that I’m one of the people who walks past “me,” head down, texting (or pretending to) when I could be offering a spare hand.
I also happen to carry several war stories about unconditional favours back firing on me. Somewhere along the line I built ramparts, sweeping life lessons learned and applied indiscriminately on the perils of being too nice.
It really is a jungle out there.
Or maybe it’s just me?
I could cite some horrific personal who’s, what’s and possible whys here, but I shan’t dredge.
Tempting as it is, maybe another time.
Could the root of the problem be, as I discovered, that nice people are the easiest to flog?
Or is it a fear of being assumed to be a weirdo or having an ulterior motive in being nice, as I assumed of Lynne today?
Or do we just not care as much anymore?
I’m not sure where Nice Favours got so lost and when it became so surprising to bump into him.
Was he ever there to begin with, or am I just being nostalgic?
But at least now I remember….
It is nice to be nice.
And by that I mean, without conditions.