Because Nice Matters

December 14, 2011 — Fulton-Montgomery Community College Civility Committee

Fulton-Montgomery Community College recently developed a Civility Committee whose mission is to foster an environment of civility where all members of the FM community and visitors can experience an environment of mutual respect and support that is civil in all aspects of human relations. In a recent meeting of ours, the topic of “being nice” was addressed which made us think, do nice people still exist?

It would not be difficult to find individuals today who believe that there has been a definite decline in civility. We are surrounded by examples of uncivilized behavior from world leaders to John Q Public. Some have attributed the increase in the lack of civility to the pervasiveness of technology. Many people blame the Internet, text messaging, email, and social networking to this increase while others see these as tools that merely make it easier for people who are already uncivilized to spread their poison to others. Recently, in one online class, students were asked to define the role, if any, the use of technology plays in the prevalence of incivility in today’s society. Nathan Henry, a student here at FM, had this to say about the matter:

“I honestly hate [the changes that have occurred] with the introduction of certain technological advances and ‘social networking’ sites. The majority of people I see lately while out running errands have no common courtesy whatsoever. When I was growing up I was taught that it’s polite to open doors for people, help the elderly cross the street, return a dropped wallet to the owner, etc. With these so called ‘advances’ and ‘social sites,’ I think a lot of people have forgotten what manners are and even how to interact with people outside of the Internet. For example, the other day I was at a store and I offered to give a woman my shopping cart as I was finished shopping and thought she wouldn’t have to walk over to the carts. She just ignored me like I wasn’t talking to her. This kind of attitude honestly makes me wonder sometimes why I try to be nice.”

Shawn May, another student in this course responded to this post using the subject title “because nice matters”:

“Nathan, your story made me think of something that happened to my son. As he was walking into a store, he saw an older gentleman also approaching the door, so he stepped aside and held the door open for him. The older gentleman looked at him with a rather frightened look on his face and said ‘What are you doing?’ My son replied ‘I’m holding the door open for you.’ The man went in (he never said thank you) and my son said to me ‘Sometimes I wonder why I try to be nice.’ I’ll offer you the same advice I gave him. You held the door open because you’re a nice person and it was the right thing to do. Maybe this man didn’t say thank you, but I’ll bet the people that saw you hold the door open walked away thinking that there are still nice people in the world. That is why you offered the woman your cart, Nathan. You have manners and it was a nice thing to do.”

I think this response hits the nail on the head. We cannot control the behavior of others but we can control our own responses to those behaviors. Why should we? To quote my student, Shawn May, “because nice matters.”

The FM Civility Committee is comprised of FM students, faculty and staff including: Dr. Paula Brown-Weinstock, Shari Braemer, Christine Carey, Rebecca Cozzocrea, Robin DeVito, Ellie Fosmire, Dr. Marlene Guiffre, Bella Mittler, Denise Passero, JeanMarie Reinke, Robert Salkin, Rosemary Smith, John van Bladel, Chris Vo, Darcelle Winchell, Marcia Wojcik, Cecile Yoon

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