Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Being Nice...


I just enjoyed a quick little read by Eleanor Estes called The Hundred Dresses after it was recommended by my friend Sally. It was such a good reminder to me to be nice to and about people around me. It's a children's book written in 1944 and is about bullying and understanding and compassion. Wanda is a girl who has a different last name and doesn't have much money but really wants to fit in, so she tells all the girls she has a hundred dresses, even though she wears the same faded blue dress every day. The popular girls of course don't believe her and make it a point to have "fun" with her and tease her mercilessly. One girl, Maddie, really wants to stop teasing her and wants to stick up for her, but she can't bring herself to do it, because she might become the target of the bullying. Maddie realizes that some of the girls weren't aware that they were being cruel, yet she (Maddie) was aware of it and still failed to correct it, so she was more to blame. The story comes full circle where the mean girls come to understand Wanda's talents and capacity to love and they feel badly being cruel to her, but it's not until after Wanda is gone and they can't do anything about it.

Reading this book has me thinking a lot about how I treat others and also the way that I think of and talk about others. I want to believe that I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but I fall short so often. I fall into the trap of being judgmental, jealous, petty, and sometimes I just say things to be funny, even when I know they aren't nice. I wonder if I ever got over the whole high school game of trying to be better than others? Other times I might not even be aware that what I say or think can hurt others feelings and often stick my foot in my mouth and then it's just out there, without being able to be retracted. It reminds me of the example of squeezing toothpaste out of a tube--our words come out so very easily, but once they are out, they are a big mess and can't be put back in.

Why can't I just be kind? This is my public pledge to be more conscious of my thoughts and words regarding others and to be better. Thanks for the great recommendation, Sal.

**Have you heard of or read this great book?
**What are your thoughts?

10 comments:

gurrbonzo said...

Uh oh. If LISA'S not nice enough, the rest of us are toast since you are one of the nicest people I know. You aren't petty...you're awesome!

sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sara said...

Sorry, that was me that deleted my comment. As I was reading it I noticed three mistakes, one grammatical and two spelling. Of course, since I care WAY too much about what others think I'm posting it again. :) How's that for irony.

I've never read this book, but this subject has been on my mind and I wanted to do a post on my thoughts on the matter. You beat me to it.

When you said, "I wonder if I ever got over the whole high school game of trying to be better than others?" it rang true. I think most human beings in general struggle with this.
We are in a ward comprised of student families. Now, these students are going to eventually have careers that pay a lot more than the average joe shmoe. And they also come from families who have a lot more than the average joe shmoe and therefore they are the beneficiaries of their parents kindness and generosity. As you know Jud's family (and I consider mine as well) are more along the lines of joe shmoe people. It's been so interesting to be among "the haves" and to think like a "have not".

What I do know is that I long for a day when I don't give a rat's --- about things like money, beauty, ability, intellect,and all the other categories we use to compare ourselves or one another.

Something happens deep inside me that I don't like, or rather I hate, when I focus on said categories. It starts so small, somewhere deep down there. My thoughts feed it and soon has filled up any unoccupied space. There is no way for me to fully describe it. The only thing I can come up with is a deep pit of emptiness. All I know is that it doesn't bring happiness, quite the contrary, it brings a lot of anger and misery. I guess that's why Christ cautioned us to lose ourselves (and in return we would find ourselves).

I'm rambling on. Maybe I should do a post and try to organize my thoughts a little better...

Shirlene said...

Hey Lisa, I want to read this book now that I'm familiar with it. I have this topic on my mind all the time. It would be my desire to do better in this area. Having friends like you helps. I think you are very careful about what you say, and are a very genuinely kind person. I remember one of the first times hanging out with you....when our first borns were babes. We went to Thanksgiving Point with our husbands and kids (and the Frosts). We were getting done eating in their deli and preparing to leave. A group was a ways ahead of us....there was a disabled man in a wheel chair. As he was being wheeled across the parking lot in front of the deli, the wind blew his hat off. He couldn't say anything, and the person wheeling him didn't notice. The rest in our group did nothing about it, and you did not hesitate for one second to run out of your way to snatch the hat and return it. I doubt you remember this, but at the time it impressed me, and I believe says alot about your character and the kind of heart you have! It was such a simple thing, I suppose, but your quick reaction impressed me. Sad to say, it didn't even occur to me to grab the hat.
I heard a talk given by John Huntsman Sr. He discussed a longtime friendship he had with Pres. Howard Hunter. He said he was impressed to stop by his house one night, as he often did. Pres. Hunter's (2nd) wife came to the door and said Pres. Hunter was in bed and very ill, and told Mr. Huntsman to go to the bedroom to visit. When seeing Pres. Hunter he told Mr. Huntsman he was not feeling well at all, and John asked what was wrong. Pres. Hunter told him that he felt horrible because he had had a negative thought about someone earlier in the day. Mr. Huntsman inquired, " You mean to tell me that just because you thought something negative about someone, that it made you physically ill." Pres. Hunter confirmed that he hadn't said anything to the person, that it was simply a thought, and that was the reason he was sick. He then asked Mr. Huntsman to give him a blessing.
It speaks of Pres. Hunters character, and the type of charitable heart that he had. I've often thought of this great example and wish that I too could have such a heart, and learn to not only resist saying unkind or insensitive things about people, but to not even think them. I think I have a long way to go, however.

the harpers said...

Wow! What a wonderful thought provoking blog! We've all heard of the "keeping of w/ the Jones's". I think we all live this way to an extent (which we all know isn't the best..but still do). Having children has really reminded me of what I say and do, because they are watching. I catch myself saying "I look fat", "my clothes are lame", and just gossiping about others... I want Lyz to think and feel she is beautiful, and most importantly, that it comes from the inside!! Hopefully, if I try harder to be a better example to her, I might rub off on myself :) Thanks for the reminder to think about it!

Linn said...

I really should have stayed off your blog for a few days. Now I have to be nice--thanks. No, it is a constant goal of mine. Sometimes I do well, other times it is just not pleasant. Okay, I'll work on it with you. Although from what I hear, you don't need to work on it at all. Thanks for sharing!

Janene said...

This reminds me of a book I saw recently, obviously several decades old, but this is a new reprint, called "How to Behave and Why" and as I flipped through it (and almost bought it), I realized how often I am misbehaving, in exactly the way you described. It is a kids book, with pictures and all, but I would have been buying it for myself!

There is no fun in trying to get ahead of or be better than everyone else. Why do we do it? You raise great questions, and everyone could probably make a similar public pledge. :o) I think you're great!

Sally said...

Oh Lisa,
First, I'm so glad you read it and liked it! No points to me, however, I only read it, didn't write it. It is so powerful, isn't it? I saw myself in both groups of people in it. The make funners, and the get made funners of. I could relate all around. I mostly identified with Maddie, but saw my children in Wanda and was so hoping for kindness for every child in the world. They just don't know what they can do with their words yet...

As far as your pledge, I agree with lots that you say. Not for you, but for me. I say things to be funny that aren't nice. I make jokes at the expense of others. Often, my family! This is not okay. Something I'm trying to remember, but rarely do, is a quote from Bob Hope, I think. It says "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" If it can't meet all three, don't say it.

One more thing that I have started doing is to stop taking most of my magazines. I still take Family Fun, even though I never do a single idea from it. It does motivate me to want to be a better mama, but I rarely do anything about it. Also the Ensign. But things like BH and G or Sunset, I used to take but ended up feeling compelled to change and improve everything about my house, style, recipes, etc. I kept feeling like I needed bigger and better, when what I already have is so indulgent compared to most of the world. Why do I need to finish my basement when there are many many people who sleep on a dirt floor? Who pack 20 people in one room? I felt guilty and gluttonous, and I wanted to feel like what I had was enough. So stopping taking those magazines actually helped me with it, since I don't always see the latest and greatest.

Terri said...

I really loved your analogy about the toothpaste. What I thought of in addition is that when we push the toothpaste out too fast, that's when the REAL mess is! (Same with words? Too fast and in too much proportion?) I'm REALLY bad at this! lol If we push toothpaste out slowly and carefully, we have the desired effect of just the right amount and little mess. There's my 2 cents worth! I love the comments and the book review.

Nicole said...

This was a favorite book of my mom's and a child. I also loved it and have added it to my kids library. I love it and think the message is such a good one. One I struggle with daily.