Nice People Finish First

The sad thing about nobility is that it rarely gets highlighted in society unless we’re seeking it out. We know what makes a hero when it comes to our entertainment, sure, but we fail to realize that those same qualities are necessary to make up normal, decent people (minus the super powers). The trouble is—at least for me—it sometimes feels like such a person doesn’t exist out there in the wild. And before I point the finger anywhere else, allow me to point it at myself. I let this happen. For instance, I’m much more likely to recall the face of the maniac on his or her cell phone that cut me off than the person who held the door open for me when my arms were filled with groceries. It’s something that I want to get better at, but it’s difficult when you feel hardwired to focus on the bad rather than the good.

Pointing out jerks is just part of being human I think, and we tend to give the loudest, most selfish people our attention. It’s not always intentional, but dwelling on this noise pollution can be harmful even when we’re pointing out how idiotic something is for a laugh. I used to have this morbid habit of scrolling through comment sections in news articles. While there was certainly a fair number of people trying to discuss things rationally, most of the time they were drowned out by the narrow-mindedness of others, or blatant trolls. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t amusing, but the problem is the lunacy, the ignorance, and the rudeness of it all never created a discussion that added to my own thoughts and insights.

The internet isn’t solely to blame for giving everyone a platform (case and point 🙂 ). We see selfishness consistently highlighted on the news also. For every overtly sentimental story that gets reported, there’s ten other depressing news items that push your head further into the gutter. Now that campaigns for the 2016 presidential election have begun, there’s even more nonsense to sift through. No matter which political side you lean toward, there’s likely something out there that you find revolting and dwell on. And which candidates get most of the attention? The ones who are most outlandishly brazen, not the ones who actually want to discuss our problems and try to solve them rationally. The same things can be applied to most television. We’re far more likely to binge watch a repugnant reality show than a series of TED Talks. It’s simply easier for most people to keep up with the Kardashians, they’re everywhere. It’s all cannon fodder and that’s why it’s hard to ignore.

My point is (if I have a point) that being complacent in all of this does a disservice to the noble people around us—the people who don’t draw attention to themselves because they’re intrinsically good-natured. I lose sight of those that make it their concern to ensure my life is a happy one, and that’s cruel of me. The kindness that I’ve seen demonstrated unquestionably extends beyond my family, friends, and neighbors. I was recently reminded of this altruism by the passing of an acquaintance. I hate to make it sound so cold because there’s nothing but warmth and gratitude that I’d like to share with this person. He was certainly a friend of my father’s, but he never owed me a thing. The truth is I can’t remember the last time I would have seen him, but I do remember his olives and what he did for my brother and I in a time when a sympathy card would have been more than enough.

Stump, as I knew him, never expected anything from me. There were no deliberate reminders of his charitableness. I’d hear his nickname every once in awhile, and it would always bring a smile to my face, but, remorsefully, that’s the full extent of it. Admitting to how little I knew the man seems criminally unjust now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t always remember him. People who are truly kind typically don’t highlight their good deeds—that would contradict their acts of altruism. What’s more important is that we’re prompted every now and again to reflect on those people out there who are generous, who are compassionate, and who lead by example, rather than those that distract us with their selfishness and disregard for others. How else can we ever expect to step outside ourselves and make sure we practice that same sort of benevolence?

It’s strange to think that someone I haven’t seen in such a long time is still capable of shaping my life. Amidst the daily drama it can be easy to forget just how lucky we are to cross paths with certain people. Sometimes you know them for only a moment, but who’s to say that blip can’t impact a lifetime’s worth of behavior. I guess I’m writing this to acknowledge that I can’t always see clearly enough to be gracious and thankful 100% of the time, but in those moments of clarity it’s important to remember the people around me that have gone out of their way even when I didn’t deserve it. I hope to demonstrate a sliver of that generosity James Haakinson showed me, and though it might slip my mind every now and then, I’ll never truly forget the people who thanklessly go through life being kind. That’s the sort of impact and legacy we should all be so lucky to leave someday.

To all those people, thank you.


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