Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From the Nicest Place in America to the Nicest Team...

Gallatin, Tennesse a town of grit and grace just 30 miles outside of Nashville is the 2017 winner of the "Nicest Place in America." I have often thought that "nice" is trés generic...tan vanilla. (tan is Spanish for "rather'). I believed people who use the adjective "nice" need to develop a better vocabulary or study character education. In fact, I used to consider "being nice" an insult. The last thing I wanted to be described as is "a nice person." However, in recent months, I have come to value people who are well....nice...Places too. The world can be a callous and cruel place. Many people are out for themselves; they are rude, inconsiderate and not too nice. America needs Gallatin. We need to know there are communities (like the runners-up) that thrive on serving one another, extending hospitality, and celebrating our past, present, and future. 
According to Readers' Digest,
Gallatin, a farm-community-turned-suburb nestled against Old Hickory Lake in the Cumberland River valley was founded in 1802. Subdivisions now bloom where crops once grew, ringing an old town square dignified by stately brick buildings and a regal county courthouse. Twenty years ago, it was a sleepy community of under 10,000 residents and downtown businesses worked hard to stay afloat. Now, nearing 40,000, Gallatin’s 30-minute proximity to booming Nashville has given the town new life. Investors have moved in to develop downtown commercial real estate. Houses are springing up almost as fast as people from all over the country can move into them, and a hip new coffee shop in one of the town square’s premier buildings, just renovated to accommodate a wide range of new commercial enterprises, is a symbol of what’s become of this former small town. 
Gallatin earned this distinguished award for three important qualities: its emphasis on charity, its ethnic diversity, and the kindness of the community. 
When I learned what made Gallatin so special, I started to think about the school community where I work. In the fifteen years I have taught at St. Ignatius, we have only grown increasingly more diverse. As a Jesuit school, we are committed to a "faith that does justice." Serving others through acts of charity is much more than a graduation requirement. Charity is practiced regularly in our classrooms and as an institution. We have been richly blessed, we ought to give to those in need, and we do. But, I believe we could be a kinder community. In the same way we need nice, we need kindness....maybe...even more. 

Naturally, I shared the story of Gallatin, TN with my Sophomore students, but I also thought to share it with another group—the JV girls golf team. A friend looked at a picture of my team and said: "you resemble the United Nations." I smiled; I am grateful that I have the chance to work with such a diverse group of female athletes. We too practice acts of charity. Our team has grown closer in making sandwiches for the Thursday Morning Comfort Run. We are giving a donation to the Cancer Awareness club in gratitude for their gift of pink ribbons which will accompany our "pink match." I would like to do more and I will keep that desire as a challenge for the future. Lastly, with my team, I see acts of kindness every day. When a golfer fixes her divot, picks up a club a teammate has left behind, remembers to rake a bunker, or goes out of her way to rake it for another golfer, kindness is at play. Gestures such as these bring a different vibe to the game. It's nice! But the more I thought about our acts of kindness, the more I realized in the same way we challenge ourselves to improve in our sport, we ought to encourage one another to become kinder. What might that mean?

Level 1 kindness is not to be underestimated. No act of kindness is a given, but actions on this Level don't require much effort or sacrifice and yet they are critically important because one is not likely to extend Level 2 kindness if Level 1 kindness is missing.

Level 2 demands paying attention, noticing and really caring about another's feelings, stretching oneself and a strong moral fiber. On my golf team, I see Level 2 kindness in action when one playing partner complains about an opponent. It's natural to vent, it's kind to forgo fueling the fire. Level 2 kindness may be something as basic, but annoying, as cleaning out the van when you know the wrappers, Cheetos and other trash aren't your own. I saw Level 2 kindness at work just yesterday when a golfer carried my bag down in addition to her own down the Par 5 fairway so I wouldn't have to go back. I'm thinking more about Level 2 kindness and want my athletes too as well. Perhaps we'll discover and experience Level 3 as the season winds down.

Whether it's the community you live in, the place where you work our the team you are a member of, it's worth considering three outstanding qualities that characterize what makes you special...excuse me, nice.

Photo Credits

1 comment:

  1. Well said Anne Stricherz. As the years roll by, I've grown to appreciate kindness and humility as the most valuable human qualities. Measure equal portions of work ethic and sense of humor into the mixing bowl, and you've got the recipe for a happy human.

    Keep setting a great example for your students and readers. Catch you on the links. Peace out!