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A New Yorker headline noting the passing of former President Bush: ‘The Irreducible Niceness of George H.W. Bush’. Irreducible-meaning incapable of being diminished-niceness. The article goes on to say that he is likely to be remembered as the last American president ‘not to have been intensely despised by a significant portion of its population’. Not disliked. Not disagreed with. Despised. Strong wording, and yet I can’t really quibble with the statement. The contemporary world is occasionally deficient in ‘nice’.
Growing up in a series of very small towns in the Upper Midwest, I know a thing or two about Nice. Midwest natives are so famous for decency that we devote entire categories of jokes to it. ‘Minnesota Nice’. ‘Dakota Nice’. Meaning bringing a casserole to welcome a new neighbor, helping to bring the crops in when a neighboring farmer is sick, or stopping to help a total stranger with a flat tire or empty gas tank. Example: After I’d lived in the Northeast awhile, I asked my Dad why he didn’t lock the doors when he was away from the farm. ‘Well, then, girl-what if someone was in trouble and needed to get in?’. Nice.
Personally, I always measure ‘nice’ against Fred Rogers, of Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr Rogers was affable, curious, whimsical….and yes, unfailingly decent and nice. In his soft-spoken, compassionate way, he showed real concern for his guests and their problems, even when their problems and issues were very different from his own life. He practiced tolerance.
Of course, even Fred Rogers had detractors. In the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a Mr Rogers cast member relates his confusion at seeing picketers protesting outside Fred Rogers’ funeral in 2003. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were protesting the inclusion of gay actors in the TV show. The castmate, incredulous, asked one of the protesters, ‘So…you’re intolerant of his…tolerance?’ Honestly, you can see how he’d be confused.
Yesterday, we were fortunate to see an incredible outpouring of ‘nice’ right here at the store. Our fabulous vendors donated their time, knowledge, and sample budgets for Bubbles & Bark, a fundraiser for Forever Home Rescue. And our equally fabulous customers turned out in droves to support. The store was packed. The drinks were delicious. The hot dogs were, too. But most importantly, you helped us raise money to help dogs in need. Not your dogs. Not dogs you know. Just dogs who could really use a good break, and you gave it to them. For that, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As we enter the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we wish you good food, good friends, and good cheer. But we also wish you the considerable joy of ‘nice’.