Long, long ago, there were dark times in the Dougherty household. My adolescent sons conversed almost entirely in dialogue poached from Adam Sandler comedies. Fraternal skirmishes were daily events, and the level of discourse at the dinner table was rarely civil. To tell the sad truth, our house was literally and figuratively stinky.
In an act both wistful and desperate, I bought this sign at a craft fair. I hung it above the back door, through which our family always leaves the house, and it hangs there still.
No one said a word about it. I assumed my sons thought it corny and tacky. I did not solicit their opinions.
Fast forward a few years. The sons, against all odds and their parents’ dire predictions and worst fears, grew into accomplished and personable young men. They now love and admire one another, although they still revert to Sandler-ese when they’re together. To my astonishment, both of them have told me that they always liked the sign, and that it made a difference in their lives. When I see their friends around town, several have asked me if the sign is still over the door, confessing that it spurred some reflection.
Why do we keep it there? Because it’s true. Nice makes a difference. It colors how we see others and how others see us. It goes a long way toward determining whether we have good days or bad days. Nice doesn’t mean naive, and it doesn’t mean weak. It means treating other people as you wish to be treated. Nice is both a tall order and a worthy goal.
Because nice matters.
(Note: Our college is tackling a “soft skills” initiative. Many of the targeted skills are behaviors prized by employers: punctuality, attendance, communication skills, and the ability to work with others. Our faculty members have a variety of thoughts about this initiative, and we hope that they will share those in this forum.)