Being Nice is Contagious
Consider the statement "We live in interesting times". Is that true? But was that also true 10 years ago? 20 years ago? 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? you get the point. Do we really face harder challenges today than they faced 100 years ago? The challenges are different, but there are also so many commonalities. Let's consider first some of those commonalities that I think are too often ignored. We are so quick to notice the differences (in technology, etc.), but I think we don't put enough thought into the things that stay the same. First, and one of the most important things that are very common throughout history is people. People haven't really changed all that much. There has always been people that have tried to be helpful and people that have tried to hurt. Human nature is there, we all have strengths and weaknesses, and so it has been with the people that have gone before us. People need to interact with others; that hasn't changed. The types of interactions may change, but people still need to communicate with others in one way or another (If only simply to get food or other goods at the store).
We can make a difference in the world. Individually we make choices everyday that affect others, in positive or negative ways. If you keep an eye out, you will notice so many friendly people in the world. People that help others, that are polite to one another, that hold doors or simply caution others of possible dangers. Even if you don't keep an eye out, you will probably see people that don't seem so friendly, those that are angry with things, frustrated, in a rush, busy, and just not happy with the situation that they are in. They may just be having a bad day and are not reacting well to it. They may in general feel bad about there circumstances. You know what I mean. We are all like these people from time to time. Hopefully not all the time though. Both of these types of people affect the world.
Our surroundings change, technology advances, but people are not that much different than people thousands of years ago. We still all have a choice each day to positively or negatively affect those that we come in contact with. Both or contagious. Contagious like the cold or the flu :) We can pass friendliness to others and they may not catch it, but a lot of people will. And that alone can make the world a better place to live in.
These are my thoughts, but I draw inspiration from others that I come in contact with, things I read, and simply by living. I don't remember everything or everyone, but that doesn't mean that those things or person's didn't have an effect on me. Some things that come to mind related to this specific topic. Nathaniel LaGarry, who goes to my church, once gave a nice speech on society and specifically mentioned the concept of how we think we live in the hardest times, etc. and how that probably isn't necessarily true. I have read the blog of Bruce Schneier, a respected security professional, and I really think he makes some good points on people's perception of terrorism. For a good example of his opinions take a look at this article titled Beyond Security Theater. The basic idea is that terrorism has been very much made into movie plots and the actually reality of terrorism is much harder to accomplish than is perceived. And that simply taking away freedoms and acting different is not helpful compared to using old fashion investigation, emergency response, etc. My explanation is a very oversimplified, but hopefully enough to get you to want to read more. Finally, another story from the Bible comes to mind. The story of the first people born. God created Adam and Eve, but they had kids. Their first kid was Cain and there second kid was Able. Cain killed Able. The first man born was a murderer. Adam and Eve probably tried to be the best parents they could be. They (literally) talked to God. Cain and Able talked to God too. Able made an offering that was pleasing to God, but Cain's offering was not pleasing to God. Cain got upset and although he talked with Able, he ended up killing him. I think the reason that I am reminded of this story is that people are just people, doing the best they can with what they have. We all make mistakes and get angry with others. How we react to things really matters. Obviously we can see that Cain reacted very badly, but we can affect others just as much, both negatively and positively, simply with our words and our actions. I had a math teacher in high school that said "10% of life is what happens to you and 90% is how you react". There is a lot of truth in that. There's a song by John Lennon that has the words "Life is what happens to you when are busy making other plans".
Make the most of life. When life gives you lemons make lemonade. Being nice is contagious :)