This post is not a rant. This post is not directed at anyone…well…except me. Yeah, definitely me.
I like being nice to people. It feels good (selfish, I know). And I like seeing the happiness on other people’s faces.
Today, I was clicking through the channels and I saw some show about Hidden Heroes or something like that. It also had Chicken Soup for the Soul somewhere in the title. From what I can tell, the premise of the show is that people are set up and video taped to see how they respond to different situations. People don’t know they are being taped. Professional actors are involved into the scenarios.
I don’t watch the show that often. It’s not The Walking Dead which is currently my favorite show (with The Big Bang Theory right up there as well). As much as I love being nice, I also have a very mischievous streak that slides through my bones and generally makes me rather…well…horrible.
When we had our Homecoming pep rally, I was invited to partake in a fun-filled relay race. I was supposed to high-five different athletes and, once they were all done being athletic and I had high-fived them, I was supposed to pop three balloons. With my butt.
Well, I have a pretty good butt for popping balloons. One of my competitors is my son’s English teacher who is a good friend of mine. And so I did some good-natured trash-talk, suggesting that her butt was too flat and she was too skinny to pop any balloons. She then suggested she was going to excel through other methods. Namely, her keys.
That’s okay. I had my keys too. I also stole a safety pin from a student. I was ready to play. I was ready to win.
Well, the relay race happened. And I lost. I did sit on three balloons. One of them, I sat on so hard that when it popped, I hit the ground really hard and bruised my butt. OWCH! When my colleague and partner in mischief came by with her keys, I happened to push her over. Tried to steal her balloon. By this point, I had already lost, but I wanted to make mischief.
So, that story was written to prove my point. I can be nice. But I can also be very, very mischievous. Like throwing shoes across the halls at teachers mischievous.
Or toilet-paper-rolling a teacher’s trailer mischievous (that happened ten years ago, and we cleaned up the mess).
And that’s just what I’m ready to confess to….
So, anyhow. I am a bit of a stinker.
But I like to be nice. But I want to be nice because it is the right thing to do, not to look all holier than thou crap or the superficial I am a role model crap. I just want to be nice. Maybe it’s to make up for being such a mischievous person.
So, today, my husband and I went out on a date (he even asked me, GASP!!). We enjoyed our meal and ordered take-out for the kids. I asked for the check, gave the lady my credit card. When she brought me the receipts to be signed, I noticed that the bill was twenty dollars lower than what was expected.
I didn’t sign. I knew something was wrong and my husband and I got the waitress’s attention.
I explained that something was wrong with the bill, that I wanted to be honest, that the amount she charged me was way too low.
Oh, I was such the shining star!
The manager-type-guy came over, fixed the bill. We paid the correct amount. I left a nice tip. We left the restaurant.
And, for a horrible ten or so seconds, I actually wondered if we were going to get something for being so good and so wonderful and so honest.
Yeah, I’m horrible. I admit it.
But, you see, we live in a society that rewards good behavior. Which is fine and dandy. I reward my kids all the time for their good grades and for getting their chores done. I want them to see that doing the right thing is a good and noble and wonderful. And that they will be acknowledged for doing the right thing.
I realize that this is a double-edge sword. I’m so used to rewarding my kids for their good behavior that, in some perverse way, I sort of (stupidly) expected to be rewarded for doing the right thing.
But, this was a business. And they are in the business of making money. Which means that they can’t give away free meals to customers who merely did the right thing. I was honest. I didn’t save a child’s life. I didn’t go out and solve world hunger. I didn’t do anything more than just be honest.
Which pisses me off that I could be so selfish and so moronic, even if it was for a brief ten seconds, or maybe less. Just enough time to walk through two sets of doors and on to the sidewalk. Don’t care. I’ll call it ten seconds.
I’ll be honest.
That show, the whole hidden heroes is a lovely thing. It challenges people to be good and to be honest and to be moral and to be helpful and gracious and kind and compassionate. At the same time, I also worry that people will act “nice” because they are afraid they might be on camera and they don’t want to look bad.
It’s easy to point our fingers at the mis-behaving person and say “bad person” as though this individual were a cat or a dog who just peed on the carpet. Bad person! Bad person!
But, what if the bad person who is not being a hidden hero has just had the day from hell? And being in a restaurant with screaming children is enough to send the person over the edge and he/she asks the parents to please control their children.
Now, the Facebook Hidden Heroes segment that I saw once involved a child on the Autism spectrum deliberately acting out in a restaurant. And a man asked the family to leave? to do something? Because his meal was disturbed by the child.
Maybe the man was rude. I can’t remember. I remember that this was a staged incident. I remember being upset that the man was being a bad person and judged him and felt good about myself for standing up for the family who were trying to show the world that sometimes the behaviors really are outside the child’s control.
Bad person! Bad person! Go to your corner and think about what you have done!!
But after watching that show, I became hyper sensitive to moments like that. And shortly after that show/segment aired, I found a twenty dollar bill at my son’s middle school. Folded up, lying on the road, and slightly perforated from where it had been driven over multiple times.
I picked it up. Good fortune for me! I found a twenty dollar bill! Woot! Woot!
And then, all I could think about were the possible cameras. And I was possibly going to be the next bad person! Bad person! I held that bill in my hands and thought about my options. It was the first day of Spring Break and we were going to Florida. I had no time to find the person who was the original owner of the twenty dollar bill. I had a double-digit-hour-long drive ahead of me. I had to leave.
I think I went into the office, asked if anyone had lost the twenty dollar bill. I really don’t know…don’t trust my memory right now. I know that I left the office still holding the twenty dollar bill and covertly scanning the roof for hidden cameras.
Yeah, I was that paranoid. Because I want to be the nice person, not the bad person.
I eventually donated the money. I can’t remember where. Church? A local food pantry? Boy Scouts? Girl Scouts? Alex’s Lemonade Stand?
I just folded the money into fourths and dumped it in the whatever-was-holding-the-money and walked away. I didn’t need thanks. It wasn’t my money. I hadn’t earned the right to have thanks.
The fact is, sometimes, I think we reward too much and too often. I’m not advocating to live the opposite. But my mother-in-law’s father put it very well. He was asked one time if was a “Valued Customer” or something like that at a local grocery store. And he said “no.” When asked if he would like to join the “valued customer club,” he also declined. When asked why, he explained that he should be valued simply because he has been a polite, honest customer. He wasn’t looking for pats on the back because he did his civic duty for paying for the groceries he put into his cart. he didn’t need to be honored because he was quiet and minded his own business as he walked the aisles.
Maybe I got this story all wrong. But I like the idea that we don’t always have to reward people for doing what is expected of them. I have to remind my children that sometimes the reward for good behavior is simply that they were good. And that the “reward” for bad behavior is a punishment. And knowing that they weren’t punished should be sufficient reward enough.
It doesn’t work that well with them. But I have a little more time to teach them that not all good behaviors will be rewarded. But, at the same time, not all good deeds will be punished either.
Now, time to cause some mischief.