Looking for Nice


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Author Unknown

The day had not been especially pleasant for 7-year-old Jonathan. First, there was the incident at the bus stop—some hurtful words from a little girl he thought was his friend.

Then there was the incident at the school playground—a run in with a bully two years older and a lot bigger. And then there was the incident just before bedtime—a little thing turned into a big thing by an ornery, over-reactive father.

Uh, that would be me.

At the end of the day— unpleasant though it was—Jon and I knelt together by his bed to say prayers. His voice sounded weary, not just tired, as he began the usual litany of thanks: "Thank you for my Mom and Dad," "thank you for my brother and sisters," "thank you for my friends," "thank you for our house."

Then he slipped in something new for which to be thankful: "Thank you for nice."

He paused. "Thank you for nice?" Nice what? Nice family? Nice dinner? Nice pants? Or maybe I misunderstood. Since he doesn't like potatoes, maybe he was saying "thank you for rice." Or since his room is decorated with a Mickey Mouse theme, maybe it was "thank you for mice."

I was beginning to think Jon was just goofing around with his prayers again, and I was about to scold him when he continued: "Thank you for not rude." And then: "Thank you for safe."

Suddenly I understood. Jon wasn't expressing thanks for specific things because, let's be honest, he didn't have much for which to be specifically thankful that day. But instead of being thankless, he was generally grateful. OK, so maybe the day was pretty miserable for him—he was grateful for the general notion of "nice." Although he had at various times in the day felt threatened and insecure, he was grateful to know that there is still such a thing as "safe." And even though several people— including his father—had been rude to him, he was grateful to know that "not rude" was a possibility.

I was touched by the sweetness of his prayer. And when we got off our knees, I couldn't help but be impressed with the change in his attitude. He didn't seem to be quite as weary as he was before. In fact, he seemed calm. Peaceful. And hopeful for a better day in the morning.

Which, I'm happy to report, it was.

I don't know for sure if his prayer had anything to do with the improvements in his life the next day. But his attitude certainly did. He didn't go to the bus stop with a chip on his shoulder, looking for a chance to get back at the little girl who had been mean to him. He went looking for "nice," and he found it—just like he found "not rude" on the playground and "safe" at home.