Provision #227: Act Neighborly

Laser Provision

Being nice is not a state of mind but an active lifestyle. It’s a matter of acting neighborly with the people in our lives • at work, home, and school, in our communities, associations, congregations, and neighborhoods. In other words, it’s a matter of leading and living by the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When was the last time you acted neighborly? Why not do so today?

LifeTrek Provision

Remember the “good old days,” when people took the time and made the effort to get to know their neighbors? A new family would move into the community • perhaps in a house down the block or an apartment upstairs • and people would take the initiative to meet them, bring a housewarming present, or drop off a note. It was important to both know your neighbors and to act neighborly.

Ironically enough, that spirit may be coming back to many neighborhoods during this time of instability, as people seek to know their neighbors for security purposes. One of our neighbors recently circulated a directory of everyone who lives on our block • including the names and descriptions of everyone’s pets. I was sad to admit there were many names on that list I did not know.

If it means anything to be nice, it certainly means to be neighborly. That’s my interpretation of what the “N” in N-I-C-E stands for. Extend yourself on behalf of someone else. Get to know them. Do something they will appreciate, enjoy, and remember.

Some have called this the heart of religion: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). The Quran puts it this way: “Do you see those who deny the Judgment to come? They are the ones who repulse the orphan and do not encourage feeding the poor. Woe to those worshippers who neglect their prayers, who want to appear holy, but who refuse to supply even neighborly needs” (Al-M••n, 107:1-7).

I love that combination of words: “even neighborly needs.” It brings the whole proposition of being neighborly into perspective. We’re not talking here about giving everything to the poor and being a saint. We’re talking about ordinary acts of kindness; about doing simple things that people appreciate.

There was a time when doing “random acts of senseless kindness” was all the rage. Bumper stickers, Web sites, and bracelets appeared to promote the cause. An instructor at Coach University once gave the following assignment to his class. Drive around town until you find an address that, for whatever reason, strikes you as being a good candidate for a random act of kindness. Write down the address. Go home and send the occupant a note, along with $20 US, wishing them a great day.

If we can do that for a total stranger, how much more can we do for the people we know at work, home, and school, in our communities, associations, congregations, and neighborhoods? Being nice is not a state of mind. It’s an active lifestyle that supplies neighborly needs to the people we know and love. It’s not enough have love in our heart. It’s not even to wish people well. Unless we do “acts of kindness,” unless we supply “even neighborly needs,” we’re falling short of the mark.

Think of the people in your life right now. Do you have a colleague, subordinate, or boss who needs a lift? Why not do something nice for them. Offer to help with an assignment. Present them with a surprise card or gift. Do you have a spouse, child, or parent who means a lot to you? Find a tangible way to express your appreciation and affection. Don’t just think about it and don’t procrastinate. Take action! Right now.

One day two little boys were playing, and one asked the other, “Wouldn’t you hate to wear glasses all the time?” The other little boy responded, “No-o-o, not if I had the kind Grandma wears. She sees how to fix a lot of things, and she sees lots of nice things to do on rainy days, and she sees when folks are tired and sorry, and what will make them feel better, and she always sees what you meant to do even if you haven’t gotten things just right. I asked her one day how she could see that way all the time, and she said it was the way she had learned to look at things as she grew older. So it must be her glasses.”

What glasses are you wearing these days? Do they help you see the things that will make people feel better? And if you see these things, do you do anything about them? The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. That’s one of the first things to realize about being nice. Nice people do nice things for others. They act neighborly. May it be so with you.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Reader’s Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. These selections do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. They do reflect the diversity of those who read Provisions each week for support and strength on the trek of life. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob

“NICE • now there’s a word, as you say not used as often in our language as it could be and certainly not practiced anywhere near as much as it could be for when it is, the results far outweigh the tiny amount of effort that is used to be NICE.”

“I downloaded Life Trek from AvantGo earlier this year out of curiosity. What serendipity! You do an inspired job. I look forward to incorporating your provisions in my-all-too-hectic-life each Monday. Godspeed and keep up the good work!”

“How do you respond to today’s news from the bin Laden camp that their Muslim men love death as much as American’s love life (or something to that effect)? Therefore, many more will be sent into planes, etc., (today’s news on all channels). And their call for all Muslims to rise up in “jihad,” a war against the rest of us I suppose.”

“I agree with the notion of being ‘nice’ as it relates to life in general, and business more specifically. But one must proceed with caution as often the most heinous threats come veiled in the overt kindness and smiles of the perpetrators. One of your readers suggests that we go after the root causes of terrorism to solve the current crises. This thought is very ‘nice’ but in practice this makes little sense. These animals acted very ‘nice’ and neighborly until they decided to get on a plane and kill themselves and 6,000 others. Being ‘nice’ to these people is not an option. That option only presents itself when the opponent has a soul, or at minimum, the capacity to accept something different than themselves and reason a common solution instead of destroying anything remotely different.”

“I’m confused. I’m a Vietnam veteran and they told me it was wrong to kill people in order to resolve a conflict. Now the same people who called me a child killer are waving the flag and saying, “Bomb the S.O.B.’s!” Why is it so right to kill people now when it was so wrong in Vietnam? Just because the conflict came over here? Just because it was our building instead of their building? Our people instead of their people? This sleight of hand leaves me feeling not only confused but troubled.”

“Your last Provision, Be Nice, brought me up short in the context of world events. Can we be nice to our enemy? Won’t they just take advantage of our being nice, and kill us all? Maybe there’s a time to be nice and a time to be nasty. Jesus may want us to be nice to all people, all the time (‘Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.’), but does that really work? I’m not sure the American people have the stomach for that, even if it is what Jesus would do. Thanks for making me think about this.”

“What is needed in both the short and long term is a sense on the part of the American populace and its intellectuals, on the right and the left, of the non-universality of our formulations of fundamental religious and human rights. We need to begin a major national debate about the quality and effect of our presence in the world. With a new level of self-awareness of our ideals and practices, and their effects on the rest of the world, we would be a much better partner in the encounters that are needed to deepen mutual comprehension among the world’s religious and secular peoples.”

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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