Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are we getting ... nicer?

An Observer reporter takes a walk outside the office not long ago. A construction worker from across the street is standing nearby. He's in his late 20s, in a hardhat, wearing shades. "Excuse me," he says. "Do you work at the paper?"

It's a question that often doesn't come with a smile.

But this worker is an avid reader. "It's really important what you do," he says, which in this hard time - for newspapers and so many other businesses - is good to hear. "A spontaneous moment of support," the reporter says, still a little floored, days later.

And with that, a question: Are we getting ... nicer in this recession?

It's a difficult phenomenon to measure - if it exists at all. We've heard - and told - stories here of unprovoked generosity. We get nice e-mails from folks who also wish the newspaper well, and others who'd like to support struggling businesses and people they've read about.

Are you seeing it in big ways or small - in grand gestures or everyday kindnesses?

The optimistic among us would say we've always been more nice than not. The halfway optimistic would say the nots are realizing - temporarily - that now isn't the time to be nasty. (And no, we're not saying that everyone is buying in, so you don't need to tell us about the stoplight gesture you received this morning.)

One thing we know: This recession has been more of an equalizer than most financial crises. More of us are in a similar place - worried about our jobs changing, our lives changing, with so little of it seemingly in our control.

Tina Weber sees this. She is a bartender at Lancaster's in Huntersville, and yes, she has noticed her tips picking up in the past month or so. But she's also noticed a different dynamic in her bar. Used to be that the varying groups of customers pretty much kept to themselves - the construction workers, the professionals, rarely mingling.

Now, those construction workers are getting laid off, and those professionals, too. "Someone tells their story," she says, "and people are listening, and then everyone is telling their stories, the whole bar."

That's what it usually takes for people to come together - not so much a common cause, but a common pain. You see it in ice storms and other disasters. Perhaps this financial crisis qualifies.

A spontaneous show of support, the reporter says. "It's kind of neat," Weber says.

Pulling together. Are you seeing it?

Tell us about it.

Your Morning Edge:

A look at the U.S. map shows the breadth of job loss in the recession, the New York Times reports.

Spend or save? Two columnists debate.

What's behind the government move to free up credit yesterday? The Wall Street Journal reports.


Anonymous said...

Just when I thought you had reached the bottom of "thoughtful" journalism, this one takes the cake. Of course we are getting nicer now that The Messiah in office. Take the new pads off moron.

Poeple are usually much happier after being laid off and when they don't have a job they become better tippers anyway, it's the way the world works with the libs in control. Oh and by the way, watching this circus in the Oral Office announce a trillion in new taxes and a 3.9 trillion budget always put an extra spring in my step and a tingle up your leg, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Apparently SOME of us are getting nicer.

Vincent said...

Don't worry about anonymous 8:08 such delightful sarcasm, and
cynicism is its own reward.
And it is spelled PEOPLE, not POEPLE such much for your grand entrance into daytime commentary.
If you so accept the offer I will pay for a "psell cheker fer ewe".

YES 'PEOPLE' are nicer when you take away all the reasoning and cause of this interesting state of affairs this country awakens to every day as of late, there within lies yet again another "sleeping giant".

I believe as the shock and awe of the hardship we are about to face wears off, neighbors will once again be neighbors, and strangers won't be so strange. That does not mean that I won't have an ample supply of ammunition on hand however. Like the man said "trust, but verify".

Anonymous said...

How can someone blame this on Boomers? I am one, this is an unfair assumption. We own our own home, put 2 children through college by living within our means. I was a stay-at-home Mom. We lived frugally and did without. We have no debt. My friends have all lived this way. Don't blame this recession on some of the hardest workers in America.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I haven't seen people becoming nicer lately. I've seen more rude people from the holiday season '08 to current. People just aren't happy about not having enough money to make ends meet or not happy about their job situation or lack of one. Some of these people in Charlotte feel like it's necessary to take it out on others that are not on "their" level (i.e. - cashiers, waiters/waitresses, etc). To all of you out there that are rude to service workers, please be nice. You have no idea if the person serving your $12 lunch is having their worst day.

Anonymous said...

I think with the recession people begin to see the little things in life. It is amazing when people are not in a rush to go do this or to do that or buy this or spend on that. People are in the saving mode and because of that I think that gives more time for people to form bonds with other people. Parents begining to think ahh maybe we should just stay home and watch a movie with the kids and play a game of go fish. I think that some people are begining to recognize, I am not someone because of my job, but rather I am someone because of the people that surround me, like the Pepsi commercial says, "Wake Up People!" The more positive you are the better it is for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I think people are generally nice...that there's an indepth kindness and generosity that inhabits all us, and especially in times of need and despair.
Just look at the people that work 4 days instead of 5 so their coworker dosen't get laid off - look at the donations and gifts to people in need that have lost their homes, their jobs, and have children to feed - look at us in times of crisis when we send food and clothing to other states and countries - look at us with caring hearts that will do all we can to make someone elses life less of a struggle.
Americans are loving, kind and generous, and we always do what we can when we can.

Anonymous said...

Vincent said: " YES 'PEOPLE' are nicer". Really? Couldn't tell it by your comments Vinnie. The question is moot. The question should be are you willing to make Charlotte a nicer place to live? Here's the way it works - you show random kindness to others and acknowledge it when it's shown to you. The catalyst is that you don't necessarily need to return the kindness to the one who gave it to you, instead you must return the kindness to two other people. Then when the two other people try to thank you, you just tell them to pass it on to two other people.

Anonymous said...

I've found that people who work in stores are a lot nicer.

Anonymous said...

Wow one person in a city of over 500,000 makes a compliment to a local reporter and you write a story. This is great journalism!