Years ago, I worked with an incredible special education teacher and friend, Nick Stelmak. He was my in-class support teacher in my fifth grade classroom and we got along really well. He and I played off each other’s strengths and I think our different personalities were great for the kids.
Unfortunately, Nick died suddenly at the age of 44 and while I remember many great things about him, there is one thing that embodies who he was and what he modeled for adults and children alike – be nice.
Nice. It is a word that we would tell the students not to use in their writing. It was too simplistic, too common and not nearly descriptive enough. But there truly is power in this tiny four-letter word.
On the first day of school, there are a million things to do and say to the kids to set the precedence for the year. We had a rough group of students that year and I was going over the typical classroom rules – raise your hand to speak, always come prepared, do not interrupt others when they are talking, etc. When I turned it over to Nick asking if he had any rules to add, he said, “Yeah. I have one rule. Be nice.”
Nick’s words have been in my head a lot lately, mainly because the anniversary of his death is approaching, but also because of being on social media and reading all of the cruel and heartless things that people say so freely to and about each other while they hide behind a keyboard. From celebrities to sports figures to teachers to politicians to the president of the United States, no one is safe. Why are people doing this? Why do they think it is okay to insult others? Why do people feel the need to comment on people’s looks, weight, clothing, hairstyle, boyfriends, girlfriends, political views, personal choices? And why is it done in such a mean way? When people attack others because they disagree with something, things get out of control. Why the attack? It has happened to me by some of my own family members and I am sure it has happened to many of you reading this.
What has happened to us? Why have we become so cruel and bold and mean and disrespectful? Why aren’t we nice anymore? Who do we think we are that we can publicly insult others? Why is it so difficult to be nice to others especially when you do not know them? The fact that there is a segment on a late-night show called “Celebrity Mean Tweets” where celebrities read aloud the cruel things people have said about them, says a lot. I guess they have a sense of humor, but it still has to hurt to see how mean people can be.
Be nice. That’s it. That’s all we have to remember. Be a role model for others, especially for the children in your life. Just be nice.
A few other phrases we can all live by…
In the words of Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods, “Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”
In the words of so many mothers, grandmothers, teachers and pastors, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then do not say anything,”
And most importantly, Proverbs 4:23-24 NASB) tells us: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.”
If we could all just be nice, the world would be such a better place. 🙂