Thursday, April 9, 2009

Have a Nice Day

I was exeedingly nice to people yesterday. Why?

Well, I had the great misfortune of having to wake up at an ungodly hour and drive to the Vista Courthouse. There I was obligated to sit and wait an ungodly amount of time to appear in front of a judge to clear up an 8-month old fix-it ticket that has caused me nightmares beyond imagination. Needless to say, I felt like I was in a world of shit. But then something happened; the particular judge before whom I appeared just happened to be one of the most kindly, generous and compassionate men I have ever been fortunate enough to encounter.

He showed genuine empathy for every single downtrodden person in that courtroom, upstanding citizen and low-life scumbag alike. Even for those who had no good explanation for what offense they had committed, whether it be driving without a license or speeding through a red light while yapping on their cell phone, he was eager to help them through their ordeal and never once passed judgment on anyone... no pun intended. For those with financial hardships, he lowered fines and gave them several months to pay; for the jobless, he assigned community service instead. When I told him that I had forgotten about and, unfortunately, neglected my mandatory court appearance after relocating to Los Angeles, he said he appreciated my honesty and lowered my "failure to appear" fine from a devastating $700 to a much more reasonable $200. He then said "good luck to you" on my way out the door, as he did with everyone whose case he heard. That really said something to me.

I must say this rarely-before-seen concern for other people inspired me, and I then made it a point to be as warm and amiable to every soul with whom I encountered that day. Working at the clerk's desk was a large black woman who clearly hated her job passionately. When I returned to her after my appearance to take care of my paperwork, I greeted her with a smile and a joke in reference to the large check I was about to write her. This simple gesture seemed to brighten her day, and she quickly loosened up and laughed and conversed with me over the next five minutes as we signed legal documents. I then proceeded to act in the same manner with the sassy old Asian lady who made my smoked turkey sandwich at Whole Foods, the casting director who auditioned me for an industrial film, the quirky Eastern European man who blended my protein smoothie at LA Fitness, and the affable young woman who sold me my upper reserved ticket Petco Park that evening.

It's amazing what a smile and cheerful greeting can do to a complete stranger. It allows them to let their guard down, and you usually end up learning things about them that you otherwise never would have. I often allow life's B.S. to make me lose sight of this simple fact.

Thank you, Judge Whateveryournamewas, for reminding me how rewarding it can be to show genuine kindness to fellow human beings for no good reason at all. Now if only more folks decided to make a habit of this...

1 comment:

  1. Great reminder. And nice to hear about the catalyst for your actions. That is, the judge. Too often, it seems people in public service look down on the public. But before I continue my over-generalization, I don't want to lose sight of the fact that other people's bad attitudes shouldn't be an excuse for us to reciprocate with the same kind of nastiness.

    Yeah, I said "reciprocate". My daughter makes fun of me when I let me geekiness leak out like that... but I'm not going to let that stop me.

    Your post also reminded me of something my mom used to say many times as a goodbye...

    "Be nice."

    It's only been in recent months that I've realized how much better the world would be if more of us just followed those two words.