In the Community
The Power of NicenessSeptember 02, 2015
One day, as I was having dinner with Robert, he pointed at me, and exclaimed, “You have the Power of Niceness!” It took me a while to understand what he was thinking, but eventually it became clear—“niceness” is what he perceives to be my particular “superpower.”
After tearing up a bit, I thought a lot about that particular statement. I would never have thought of “niceness” as a superpower. However, it does seem to be missing from a lot of everyday interactions and it could, in some cases, save the day.
Often, we see or experience road rage, or hear a sales clerk being berated by a customer, or we forget to thank someone for a particular kindness. We are witness to political leadership ranting at each other. There is bullying both in person and on social media. Daily there are news reports of the horrors that individuals are somehow able to inflict upon each other. “Niceness” seems to be in short supply.
I’m grateful everyday for my family and friends, but if they don’t know how important they are to me, it is my fault for not making it clear. The Community Foundation’s staff, volunteers, and donors have incredible value, and yet I fear they may not be told often enough how important they are to the work of the organization and to me personally. Their own superpowers include a strong work ethic, generosity, compassion, listening, mentoring, and more.
More often than not, we think about those whose heroism goes unquestioned—fire fighters, medical personnel and our military for example—but we forget that there are many, many everyday heroes who make daily living not only tolerable, but amazing.
Actually, we live in a region full of superheroes. There are teachers working miracles on a daily basis. Traffic signals are maintained to control chaos on the streets. Water and electricity arrive without giving them a second thought. Entertainment is at our beck and call; groceries appear on market shelves; and somehow the technology we rely upon is most generally available.
I remember a Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis and his little buddy Joey are leaving the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson with a substantial supply of cookies. To Joey’s question, “I wonder what we did to deserve this?” Dennis responded, “Joey, Mrs. Wilson gives us cookies not because we’re nice, but because she’s nice.” How purposeful are we in trying to be nice—to be someone’s superhero when they may really need a friend, a little compassion, a little truth, an extra cookie?
What are YOUR superpowers? How do you use them to improve the world around you? What have you done lately that “saves the day” for someone else? Have you made a gift to a nonprofit in support of its work to help others? Have you volunteered in your community? Have you attended a Town Council meeting, or studied the issues and voted when appropriate? Have you taken a casserole to a shut-in or visited someone who is ill? Have you sent a card?
Many of you have superpowers well beyond “niceness,” but we all can start there. I realize that I need to work harder to earn Robert’s belief in me that I not only have “the Power of Niceness,” but that I am not letting it languish unused. Once you’ve been given a superpower, you have a responsibility to use it. And we all have superpowers. So, live generously by using your superpowers daily, to the benefit of all around you. The cape is optional.
Denise K. Spencer
President and CEO