Thursday, April 13th, 2017
Telling someone that their blind date is “nice” was, in the day, code for the man/woman is either ugly, dumb, addicted to some substance or a combination. That was in my salad days.
Over the years, as the literal “nice” applies to increasingly fewer people, the word has come to mean what it should and is positive and precious to me.
Given my appreciation of all things nice, you’ll soon see why I jumped when I read a good friend Deirdre Wyeth’s Facebook post about the school at which her dear husband John had worked and the reason I asked if I might post what they did to remember him. John died last fall, far too soon.
Deirdre wrote on Facebook: “The wonderful people at Harlem Link Charter School, where John worked for almost 10 years, held a celebration this evening in memory of him. There were in-person and video tributes, a song by one of the students, and a buffet based on what he brought for lunch every day: pb&j, wheat thins and grapes in a brown bag.
“They also created a plaque for him [photo below]. And especially wonderful, they announced they will name an award for a graduating student in his honor – and the award is for niceness. How perfect is that? Such a moving and emotional evening. Thanks to all!”
On its website Harlem Link describes itself as a “Pre-K to 5 public charter school that has offered a high quality educational choice to families in Harlem since 2005. Our school attains high levels of academic achievement in a safe, nurturing environment through a well-rounded curriculum.” In another section I read: “We also pay attention to details that too many public schools ignore, such as the consistency with which teachers use language from grade to grade to build a common culture and the quiet tone of our hallways.”
Quiet hallways. Wow. What’s quiet in NYC and with children around?
Being nice was just one of the wonderful and particular things about John. In addition to writing plays and being a topnotch school administrator, he loved ragtime and being a dad. Of the many children in his life his brilliant, lovely daughter May benefited most from his creativity, composure and his pride in her accomplishments.
The Nice Award caught my attention for another reason. I’ve mentioned before that I was designated “Best Camper” at my overnight camp at aged 8, a concept considered so yesterday in today’s competitive world. The tangible reward was a magnificent, special lollipop—I’d not tasted a more delicious one before nor have I since. I think the recognition was for similar reasons as the John Wyeth Nice Award. I relate and am pleased to see appreciation for such characteristics returning.
We mostly reward celebrity, financial success, physical beauty, the four star restaurant and the people who get all A’s. How many institutions recognize–and honor–the nicest person in the group?