Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TOO NICE?




Sometimes I am too nice.  Its been a problem over the years.  The truth is that I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and I do like to help when I can.  Goodness knows that I have been helped enough times in my life that payback of some sort is due.  But there have been times when helping has turned sour.

There was a young single mom who lived across the fence from me in a nearly identical apartment building to my own.  We stared into each other’s window.  She had a boy who was Boo’s age at the time… 6.  The Bear was bran spanking new.  It was not uncommon for the moms in our complexes to trade babysitting time.  So when this woman came to me and asked me to watch her son so that she could apply for a job, I said certainly I would.

X was out of town for three weeks on a job several hours away.  We did not have a phone at the time, nor did I have a car while he was gone.  Not a big deal.  We were just a few blocks from the market and anything else I thought I might need.  In a pinch I could walk to the phone booth at the corner and call one of my relatives or friends if something went wrong.

The day arrived that I was supposed to watch Slick, as the boy was called.  The mom showed up, looking very nervous.  Interview jitters, I thought and waved her off.  Slick slipped past me to sit on the floor next to Boo and was lost in the world of Ninja Turtles.
Bear slept soundly in her bassinette. When I turned around, Slick was still in his coat, with a big scarf wrapped around his head and neck that would have made Dr. Who envious.  This was in Fresno, where we might have had a bit of fog that morning, but it was no where close to freezing or even particularly cold.

“Slick, why don’t you take those off… you must be overheating.”

The boy shook his head and did not say a word.  Slick was a normally quiet boy.  I turned my attention to the dishes.  After a time, he was still sitting there all bundled up.  I walked over and tugged at his coat.  He allowed me to remove it, but when I tried to unwind the scarf, he held on tight.  Odd.  I insisted, my mom senses were tingling.  Slick looked up at me with very sad eyes.

“Did your mom tell you not to take the scarf off?”  I asked as casually as possible, not to let my anger show.  It was unlikely this boy’s fault.  He nodded.  His cheeks were so swollen that they vanished down his neck into his shirt.  I knew from past experience what caused that… mumps.  There was not a darned thing that I could do about it.  I felt his feverish head.  I made him stand on the scale and gave him the appropriate dose of children’s fever reducer, then made him comfortable on the sofa.

None of my children ever had the mumps.  They had all been religiously vaccinated.  I was not worried for them.  I was worried for myself.  I’d never had the mumps, but my brother had.  When Slick’s mother returned, I complained.  She said, well she thought he looked funny, but thought it was just a bug.  Who sends a child with a “bug” into the home of a new born?  Someone desperate to get a job, I suppose.  I hoped that I would get lucky and escape. 

For a few weeks it looked as if I had.  Then one of the guys where X worked stopped by to say the job was going over an extra week.  We were getting short on money, but I could stretch things by making bread.  I spent Bear’s afternoon nap making bread for the week.  By the time she woke up, my head was killing me.  By the next morning I looked like I was sporting Jabba the Hut’s head and could not turn my head in either direction.
Feeling ill does not come close to the feeling I had.  Wishing I’d just die and get it over with does. 

X would not be home for at lease four days.  There was no way on earth that I could pack the baby up in the  stroller and head for the pay phone a block away.  I was seriously considering using Bear’s Huggies to keep from having to get off the couch and visit the bathroom.  I thought… surely someone will come by.  Not a soul.  For three days Boo took care of me and his tiny sister.  He mixed formula like a pro, fed and burped her, changed her and all with no complaint.  I did not feel much like eating, but he made and fed me luke warm soup from the microwave… I did not want him to burn himself if it spilled.

The fourth day, a friend showed up.  I had promised to baby sit for their anniversary that evening.  Kathy had come by to make sure it would be alright to drop her sons off a bit early.  She took one look at me and said “Oh my god!”  All I could do was cry, I was so glad to see her because I knew that I could now die and my children would survive.  She spent her anniversary taking care of me and my kids, while her husband babysat their own.  When X returned the next day, I hardly noticed, except for his ranting and raving about how mad he was at Slick’s mom making my head hurt even more.

I tried to thank Kathy before she left, but she insisted that she had been thrilled to be able to play with a girl baby for a few days and waved it off.  The following work week she showed up every morning to take over when X left until I was well enough to take care of my family again.

So sometimes I am too nice.  I get that.  But on the other hand, if I had not been a nice person and traded babysitting with Kathy, who would have shown up to help me?  That is the thing about payback for kindness.  It is not on time, but it is certainly timely when needed.  I guess its not so bad being too nice.  You can argue that I never would have gotten sick if I had said no and you would likely be correct.  But then again, maybe I would have gotten another illness off a shopping cart handle when I rubbed my eyes. You never know when you will need help.  Best to keep that kindness bank full… and always, be thankful.



32 comments:

  1. I am a full time believer in karma. It's not for everyone, but I do believe what goes around comes around. You helped and were helped. Slick's mom disregarded your family's health and really, the health of her own child and I am betting she got it all handed right back to her.

    You do strike me as an exceptionally kind person. As you say, it is like a bank. You give and, when you are in need, you get. It's a beautiful thing, really.

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  2. I'm far too nice too, tend to be too gracious, always giving the benefit of the doubt, but then again, it's good to be nice. Right?

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  3. I count at least 5 Acts Of Mercy on your part. At least. And a good measure of redemptive suffering. Though I don't conceive of God as some sort of spiritual accountant, even if we "subtract" mercies received, the balance seems to be in your favor here.

    I give you this, not as a new commandment, but that which you have had from the beginning, that you love one another.

    Kind of says it all.

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  4. I would rather be around a kind person than a mean or selfish person, wouldn't you?.

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  5. Well, now that you have had some time to think about, if you had it to do over again, what would you have done differently?

    I mean, what she did wasn't right, and I'm sure that you should call someone rather than have this infected person in the house with you and your small children. I don't know who you are supposed to call, but I suppose that if you call the police that they would know who to contact.

    Except that you were in this house alone with the children and without a phone, so you wouldn't even have been able to call the police yourself. And you had already touched him before you realized what the problem was, so he might have already infected you.

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  6. I certainly don't think you've been too nice. The thing that real nice people don't have is a lot of expectations. I've known people to do nice things, but they have such high expectations about receiving something good back that they get bitter and angry when it doesn't happen. Real nice people do nice things for the sake of the other person, not themselves. Sounds like you're the latter. Keep up the good work!

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  7. laura b.-- Well, I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that I was too nice and how I should not kill myself to take care of everyone else. I did not think that I was doing that. So it was rolling around in my head until this blatted out.

    Thank you for the compliment. I was trying to show that while being nice can backfire, its still the right thing to do and not a waste.

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  8. Mo-- I could not be any other way.

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  9. Great post and great advice - Best to keep that kindness bank full … and always, be thankful. And I don't think nice has anything to do with it, you are just a good person. I am certainly glad that your friend stopped by when she did and the story does have a happy ending. Take care.

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  10. Cricket-- Believe me, I have recieved so much kindness that I am sure that I have a deficit.

    Thank you for the compliment. Yes, it is a beautiful thing.

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  11. Cube-- Thank you. I have been those things too. But they make you feel so awful after... yes, I like being on the nice end much better.

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  12. laughing-- I understand what you are saying. I probably would not have called the police or especially not family services. Once they have a file on you, your life is suspect and they have way too much power with far too little time to investigate properly.

    This boy was well fed, never left alone, showed no signs of abuse ever. His mom adored him. I think she was just desperate not to lose the job possiblity.

    So no, I would not have done much differently. But at least I would have kept him away from the other children and kept my distance, washed my hands endlessly and sprayed Lisol on everything around him.

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  13. KenV-- I agree with you that if you are going to do something nice, then do it because you want to, and never expect anything in return.

    There is a quote that comes from a book that goes something like... "giving is the gift to the giver". It should please us to be able to give, and that pleasure from giving should be what you gain.

    Thanks, KenV

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  14. Shife-- Thanks for the kind words.
    There was a time when I had trouble with depression. I learned then that one thing that made me feel good, was to stop and look at things in terms of what I could find to be thankful for that day. I began this ritual of looking back at my day and counting them. Just like that church song... count your blessings. Being thankful changes your whole perspective.

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  15. I think that what your neighbor did was reprehensible, but I think she did it out of desperation. People do act out of character when they are cornered between a rock and a hard place. Tough times bring out the bad in people. That's why it's more important in these awful economic times to extend a hand to those around us who need a little extra help.

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  16. Slick's mom was a louse, no doubt about it. But on balance, I'd still vote for being nice.

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  17. It's good to be nice to people who reciprocate. The thing I had to learn is not to be nice to the people who will take advantage...Because then I was just a doormat.

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  18. You're one of the few people I've met who I believe is both kind and nice. Quite a feat and one to be so very proud of.
    I don't believe in the existence of "too nice". A true angel and I'm so glad to have you in my life.
    If there's ever ANYTHING I can do for you, you just yodel.

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  19. I'm not a believer in Karma, per se, but I do believe that God takes good care of, and notices, those who perform good deeds. You are another example of that theory of mine being truer than not. And good for you for being so!

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  20. Cube-- I agree that she was desperate and had been out of work for quite some time. I know too that Slick's dad was a total deadbeat.

    You are so right about today's economy... people are growing desperate. A little kindness goes a long way toward helping one stay sane.

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  21. secret agent woman-- Me too!

    Churlita-- I have been there too. That's a hard lesson to learn, but eventually one gets it. Glad that it did not sour you on continuing to be the good person you are.

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  22. Peggy-- Your email today cracked me up! To run into Euglena like that so soon after the post about her. HA! How funny is that?

    By the way, thanks. But you know, being my friend is all I need. :-)

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  23. Suldog-- I get strange ideas sometimes. One day I was looking in the mirror thinking how scary I look in the morning. It popped into my head that this is how I will look after I die when I stand before God!

    Then it occured to me that this is the reason that guilt makes it so hard for us to look in our own faces when we know we have done wrong.

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  24. And omigosh today just must be my day. Guess what else the purple cat dragged in today?
    Not funny, God. Two tests in one day?
    Glad I read your post about being nice ;)

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  25. Peggy-- Oh CRAP. My sympathies, dear.

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  26. Funny how desperative times bring out the worst in some people and the best in others. I know which side I want to end up on...

    Gosh, I have such a hard time feeling comfortable with ending a sentence in a preposition. I agonize over them so...

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  27. BTW that's desperate... when will I learn to check spelling BEFORE hitting post comment.

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  28. Cube-- You know they drilled that into our heads and I can't stand the idea of ending with a preposition either! Worse yet, I think I can still recite them all.

    I think we belong to the same team.

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  29. Cube-- And that team includes a few of us that hit that post button a bit too quickly... I may be the chief of that sub-group.

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  30. ananda - you poor thing! i am so sorry that you had to go through that! did the evil mom get the job? it seems like she should have come to check on you - but maybe she got sick, too.....anyway - i am sorry that happened to you - so not fair......

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  31. C4C-- I survived thanks to Kathy and Boo! Yes she did. Sadly, I turned her down on babysitting while she was trained. But then, it was sort of her fault that I could not. Oh well. It turned out well for everyone in the end. Is that not all that matters? I am not angry with her now. I understand desperation.

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