When I was a little girl, my cousins and I would get into a ton of arguments. I can’t remember what all about, but sometimes in these arguments, someone would say something mean or hurtful to the other. I remember my Bigmama, the late Alma Hoyle, would tell us after these arguments: “It’s nice to just be nice.” As a child, those words didn’t really stick like they should have, but after hearing it so many times in my childhood, it stuck as an adult.
One of the things I love about living in small town Mississippi is that while driving down the road, a complete stranger may lift their hand to sort of wave at you as you pass each other. It’s no big deal really, just a wave, but it makes me smile. One thing I have started to notice sometimes locally and when traveling, is that people don’t make the extra effort to be nice to one another nowadays.
About a week ago while shopping at the mall, I came across this little girl in the store with her mother. She looked as if she was around the same age as JaCobie, so maybe three or four years old. She did what any other toddler does while shopping with a parent, but one thing she did in particular was say “hello” to each and every stranger who walked by her. She looked up into the person’s face and with the cutest and biggest grin that would sort of light up your world, if only for a few seconds.
Now, just about everyone she came across responded back with a “hi” or “hello,” but after a few, the little girl came up to a woman that wouldn't say it back. Me being the adult, I instantly thought, “how rude?” The little girl, however, remained, sweet and said it once more to the lady. After the second time, the woman sort of glanced at the child, frowned and then walked to the other side of the store. You could see in the little girl’s face that she was hurt. Further more, you could see on the mother's face that she was angry. She looked at her daughter and said, “Don't worry about that baby. Say a little prayer for her.” As if this sweet little girl couldn’t get any cuter, after hearing her mothers words she closed her eyes, bowed her head for a few seconds, and then began to say hello to others as they passed by. I instantly knew that the little girl had done just as her mother had told her and said a little prayer for the woman that wouldn’t speak back.
After finally deciding on my selection, it was my turn to walk by the little girl and her shopping mother. I must admit, I was a little nervous as to what to do or say, but I knew I wanted to do something that would make the little girl happy. As I walked by, just as she had so many times to all of the other shoppers, she lifted her head, smiled and greeted me. I smiled back, squatted down and said, “Hello, I just wanted you to know that I saw you saying hi to everyone. I think you're super sweet and I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to speak with you.” She grabbed me in the tightest hug and gave me her best grind. I felt so good that I was able to make her happy, if only for a second, just as she had done for so many who walked by her.
It was important for me to do something that was nice and encouraging to this sweet little girl because what she was doing was a great thing. You never know what a person is going through and that small hello from her may be the only nice thing they hear from another person for a while.
I ask of you all to try doing something extra nice this week for a stranger. Say hello, hold open the door, let someone skip you in a long line, or whatever you may be feeling at the moment. Try to do something special for someone you come into contact with this week, because like my Bigmama would say, “It’s nice to just be nice.”