Sometimes I feel like it's really easy to be considered as a nice person. The bar is set pretty low, and the basic criteria for being good can be defined as not being obtrusively bad. For the most part, I'm considered nice because I'm not a racist, homophobe, or any other variation of a close minded, judgmental human being. And in a lot of ways, I attribute being good to sheer laziness and the lack of a social life; being mean or intrusive seems like it would involve a lot of effort and people need to go out of their way to say something mean or push others around. Sometimes, you should open a door for someone or pick up something someone drops, but if they're too far away or it's not within arms length, it's not required or even preferred. Throughout my life, I've been very fortunate, and even though it's debatable whether I've done anything worth noting this past week, I've spent a little time and effort that could be construed as proactively being good.
I don't want to jinx it, but I have a fairly stable job and I'm currently living with my parents who provide food and shelter, and except for a mound of student loans that I'm paying each months, I don't really have any financial responsibilities. It's just going into the bank, and since it's directly deposited into my account, I don't even know when I'm being paid. Even when I was younger, I've never been particularly interested in money because it's either been sparse or my mom worked so many days a week that I felt guilty spending it. And even though I have a steady job, my thrifty tendencies tend to prevail, and let's be honest, I have everything that I need. So when I received my tax return several months ago (and after I lost it underneath the clutter on my desk for a few months), I decided to lend majority of it to entrepreneurs in less fortunate countries through kiva.org.
If you're not familiar with kiva.org, it's a website where people can loan money to groups or individuals in less fortunate countries. And through their personal and business description, you can determine their intended repayment schedule, the risks of default and losses through money exchange, and the group's or person's intentions with the loan. In essence, it's a site that promotes entrepreneurs across the world and provides loans to small businesses who wouldn't normally have the chance to acquire loans from conventional banks, an opportunity that's very common in North America. And even though you're not collecting interest, it's not actually a donation and we shouldn't necessarily pity the people who use the site's services. If anything, they have more drive and ambition than a lot of Americans, and certainly more than me. These are the people who are providing food, jobs, and services to sustain their communities. It's not only necessary for their economy, but it's needed for their community; people need food from restaurants and grocery stores, and restaurants and grocery stores need meat and produce from farmers. It's a network that extends as small or as large as you want to look at it from services to food to transportation, and these are the people attempting to make it happen with the lowest amount of resources.
It's hard to not provide loans based on guilt. As a second generation American, it's hard for me to communicate with my grandparents who immigrated from the Philippines to Hawaii with seven children. At a young age, my parents decided not to teach us their native language and moved to Texas, which further distanced the cultural disconnect. And even though I don't blame my parents for their difficult decisions, I don't have a lot of ways of honoring my grandparents or heritage. The only way I can represent my past is to attempt to work half as hard as my grandfather must have worked to provide for seven children as a farmer in a third world nation and later as a dishwasher in a new country. And it's maybe out of guilt, but I want to provide my small part in providing opportunities for people who want nothing more than to assist the lives of their children and the community around them.
I don't have a segue.
While I was at the mall with my dad, I noticed there were an abundance of puffy white clouds, and when my dad mentioned that it might rain, I scoffed because we live in Texas and it's still summer. Seriously, we're constantly in droughts and it's been a record number of days above 100 F (>37.78 C). And when we left the mall, it was pouring. Even though the heavy rain only lasted a few minutes, the wind and lightning continued into the night, and its damage was apparent on the next day. My parents decided to walk around the neighborhood in the morning, and they noticed several trees had splintered branches and trash was scattered across our yard. Moreover, the neighbor's tree had toppled against our fence, crushing the two sheds bellow it and scrunching a bird house post that was two stories high.
With some concern, my stepfather knocked on our neighbors door, and found out that our neighbor had returned from her three month stay at the hospital. She recently broke her knee cap, and she was unable to maintain the house and daily activities without a 24 hour nurse. And through it all, she seemed well, even bubbly with grace and easy. If the tree had swayed the other way, it would have tore apart the ceramic tile roof, but as it stood propped against the two mangled sheds, its branches appeared to be engulfing the miniature house-like structures like a barn trapped in the tide of branches.
Since we were already cutting the branches on our side of the fence, my stepfather attempted to cut as much of the fallen tree as possible to reduce the amount of labor it would cost to remove the tree. It was a big tree, and since it had mangled itself across the sheds, it was liable to roll if we cut the wrong branches so we essentially did the grunt work and left the sump and supporting branches for the professionals. And even though it took the better portion of two days until the heat became nearly debilitating and my arms and legs were be littered with cuts and bruise, it was nice to know that we were helping our neighbor. At times I can can be a disgruntled helper while my stepfather comes up with random construction projects around the house (e.i. the master bedroom hasn't had carpet or wood floors for the past five years because we've been busy replacing the windows, installing new sinks, and repainting the walls), but it's different when it's for someone else. Maybe it's a latent response from catholic school when I was in the third grade or the heavy handed message to treat others the way I'd like to be treated, but I always feel like my time and effort is more meaningful when it's spent helping others instead of just improving our house, a place I doubt most people will see or appreciate. Plus, our neighbor's caretaker gave us frozen popsicle bars, and I'm pretty sure that's a form of curacy to kids and teenagers during the summer.
More than anything, I think it's important to be kind to one another and attempt to be as empathetic as possible. If I couldn't spare any money or if I didn't have time to help my neighbor, I wouldn't want someone to judge me on something that's beyond my control, but at the same time, I should try to do as much as I can to help. Sometimes it's appropriate to transcend the word 'nice' to mean more than just 'not mean' or 'good' beyond the boundaries of 'not bad' and proactively provide those words with meaning and substance.