A Month of Niceties//Keri Kellerman
1) This morning I walked through the house, flipped the desk and wall calendars to the first of the month, designated a Month of Niceties by the ladies’ auxiliary club over my firm objection that a week was sufficient, and sent a courteous reminder to the members to do the same.
2) I volunteered to weed the community garden, which my husband had planted and had gradually become a neighborhood eyesore.
3) Although late for an appointment, I held the elevator for a well-dressed young woman wearing headphones and texting and paying very little attention to the anxiety she caused me.
4) For the fourth consecutive day, I cleared the dishes in the office cafeteria even though none of them were mine.
5) Despite the lateness of the hour, I continued listening as a friend struggled with what seemed to be a minor problem.
6) I carried on a polite conversation about the weather, which was quite apparent, with a fellow customer while we waited for our respective numbers to be called at the corner butcher shop.
7) I slid a coaster under my husband’s drink to preserve the wooden finish on an end table he had purchased at far too high a price.
8) At the invitation of a former classmate, I attended a musical performance I neither understood nor appreciated.
9) I gave my seat on the bus to an elderly gentleman as an example to the teenager who failed to show him proper respect.
10) I smiled at a baby screaming in the grocery checkout line as a favor to the mother who was doing nothing to quiet him.
11) I tipped a barista well for a drink that appeared, and later tasted, substandard.
12) As I passed the bench outside the post office, which serves as a leashing area for dogs whose owners are inside conducting business, I patted a small, white Pomeranian that shed noticeably on my dark stockings.
13) While remaining agnostic, I attended a religious service that signified a certain rite of passage for a nephew and brought the present my husband had forgotten in the entryway.
14) I loaned an expensive camera to a friend who needed it to complete her research though it was unclear what she planned to photograph or prove.
15) As a kindness for the forgetful assistant whose responsibility it was to do so, I brought doughnuts to the office, taking care to select vegan and gluten-free options for the younger, more health-conscious workers.
16) Even though my children had long since graduated without distinction, I baked cupcakes from scratch and decorated them with colorful candies for the annual high school bake sale.
17) I bought a book on Irish literature my sister would enjoy and mailed it to her with a brief inscription, noting my appreciation of the plain birthday card she had sent me.
18) I ate a sandwich that was not at all what I ordered.
19) Against my husband’s wishes, I set food scraps out for a stray cat that quickly became a nuisance.
20) Aware of her poor eyesight and failing health, I sorted an elderly neighbor’s recycling after she left it a mess on the curb.
21) I answered a colleague’s busy phone when he needed to leave work early for personal reasons and did not investigate further.
22) I read a self-improvement book and recommended it to my reading group, who I thought would also benefit.
23) I informed the hostess in a popular family restaurant about its lack of toilet paper.
24) I purchased new dust covers for my mother-in-law’s living room set after a particularly dramatic wine incident that my husband refused to acknowledge and she refused to forget.
25) I paid close attention and asked relevant questions in a meeting that bore no relation to my duties or position but was required by my supervisor.
26) When a stranger left her wallet on the store counter, I ran outside and returned it to her without reward or recognition.
27) I accompanied a divorced friend on a blind date until she felt comfortable enough to send me home at my own expense.
28) At a distant relative’s request, I donated a valuable collection of antique soup spoons to a charity auction for a cause I did not support.
29) Using a ladder when necessary, I replaced all the light bulbs in our two-story home with more efficient ones because my husband kept neglecting them.
30) I gave directions to tourists visiting the city for a high-profile sporting event despite my lack of interest in it and them.
31) I admired the persistence of a fly as it bumped against the windowpane above the kitchen sink, battling against a barrier it neither saw nor understood.
Keri Kellerman lives and writes in Minneapolis. She tweets at @kerikellerman.