It was my distinct pleasure to meet a young man at an area school last week and his positive energy, welcoming smile and friendliness made my otherwise, rather dismal day, much brighter and happier. We spoke briefly about Thanksgiving and what we would be doing to celebrate the holiday. The conversation centered around the way that our families celebrated the holiday and more specifically, our family traditions. I shared that the oldest male in the house always carved the turkey and hence got to eat some of the steaming turkey before anyone else. I shared that it was also a time to experience my mother's incredibly delicious pies. He shared with me that his family tradition around Thanksgiving was to stuff the family turkey with spaghetti! He told his story with such enthusiasm and gusto that it made everyone smile. Can you imagine, rather than scooping out the usual bread based stuffing from your turkey, instead, delicious, turkey flavored pasta being shared around the table. What a fabulous and memorable family tradition!
This delightful young man was in a wheelchair, though I doubt that anyone that meets him could even see his wheelchair while being showered by his friendly aurora. While I don't know this wonderful young man very well, judging by the pride with which he shared his family tradition, I'm guessing that he resides in a family where he is loved. If by chance this young man reads this column, I want you to know that you are my hero. Not because you are in a wheelchair, but because you were so friendly to me, a total stranger. Maybe you don't know it, but I'll bet you inspire people every day with your positive energy, friendly manner and contagious smile.
You, sir are awesome!
I have been thinking and wondering how and why some people are nice, seemingly nice to everyone and others are not. What are the influences or forces that move all of us from being nice to new people we meet and more importantly, being nice, fair and kind to the people that we interact with each day. In 1859, Charles Darwin penned, 'The Origin of the Species." This seminal work became the basis for modern thought on the evolution of man. Among Darwin's assumptions that gathered acceptance was "natural selection" or what researcher, Herbert Spencer called, "Survival of the fittest." Today's version of this phase translates to "I'm going to get mine." The essence is essentially unchanged; I will do whatever I can to get what I want without regard to how my actions will affect others.
Does this explanation explain why people can be so cruel to each other?
Many prominent researchers have, ironically used the survival of the fittest concept to measure how separate we humans are from animals. In the animal world, there is no question that the fit survive, however, among humans; this exclusive motivation can be incredibly destructive. More recently researchers have found that humans are hardwired to cooperate with each other and to look out for each other.
Researchers at Emory University found that very young children as young as 16 months want to cooperate with others and want to be fair with them. Some researchers feel that this is an indication of an innate, human preference for cooperating and not a learned behavior. In addition, the same research found that being nice to others really lights up the MRI machine when measuring the pleasure associated with treating others well. While most of us don't need research results to know that treating others well really feels good, why we don't do it more often is another question. One thing that I am sure of is that people like the fine young man that I met last week are an inspiration to us all. Maybe because they remind us that being nice really does matter. Remember, all kids count.
Reach the writer at wildblue.net