There is a meme running around Facebook that goes like this: “Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone and then find out how ungrateful they really are?”
I suppose it is a harmless expression of frustration, but it really bugs me. That’s really a self-destructive attitude and it’s mighty selfish. You did a nice thing and now you expect a parade? Good luck.
My late dad actually taught me that years ago. He would tell my mom and the kids, “do the nice thing but don’t sit around waiting for thank yous.” My dad wasn’t a great philosopher but every now and then he absolutely nailed it. When we get upset because somebody wasn’t grateful enough we give them control over our happiness and our goodness. And, your motive for being nice gets thrown into question too.
For me there is a tangible joy I get from doing the nice thing. Oh sure, I enjoy a hearty thank you and occasionally some recognition for the nice things I do, but I am working hard on not needing that. More and more I try to do silent acts of kindness.
Four or five times a week I have been buying coffee for the car behind me at the drive-thru Starbucks. Just because. It’s only a few bucks and I often jokingly tell the barista, “I need the good karma!” I make it a point not to linger or look back, to be sure I don’t do it for the acknowledgement.
It is nice when it comes. The other day I bought a $2.27 coffee for a guy. He apparently violated a speed limit or two because he caught up with me and hoisted his cup in a happy, appreciative, toast.
I thought little of it until I got to my office. I was a good 20 feet from the door when an exiting student stopped and held the door for me for several seconds. He went way out of his way to do the kind thing. Karma?
I didn’t know the young man. He had no duty to do the right thing. He didn’t hold that door for the thank you. He held the door because it was a nice thing.
As I walked away from that encounter with a little glow, I could not help but think about all the anger we see in the world and wonder if being nice could help.
Perhaps we all need more good karma. Maybe we can find it by doing the nice thing and not getting pissed when people don’t bow down before us in gratitude.