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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 10-Apr-14 12:32:53

How to be an everyday angel

A motto on a corny plastic fridge magnet sums up children's author Karen McCombie's outlook on life; "You're only here a wee while, so be nice." It's got her thinking how to get that same (non-corny) message across to the junior generation…

Karen McCombie

How to be an everyday angel

Posted on: Thu 10-Apr-14 12:32:53


Lead photo

Karen McCombie: author and everyday angel

I was eleven, had just started secondary school and was getting used to the giddy notion of having my own set of keys and letting myself into our fifteenth-floor flat. One day my mum arrived home shortly after me, beaming with pride. An older lady neighbour had just told her I was "an absolute angel", and many other neighbours apparently agreed.

What had I done that was so special? Foiled a bag-snatching thief or something equally dramatic and impressive? Nope, my angelic powers were much more everyday… When I was in the lift with that lady - or any of my neighbours - I smiled. I said hello. I chatted a little bit.

Realising that doing something so simple could have such a positive effect astonished me back then. But it's something I've carried with me throughout my life, and enjoy the response I get (bar the odd blank look from the odd person - their loss!).

So how could you get the "it's nice to be nice" message across to the grandkids? Well, I've sold the idea to my own eleven-year-old daughter by writing these top tips for being an "Everyday Angel"…

Realising that doing something so simple could have such a positive effect astonished me back then.

Smile, please!
Even if you're nervous or shy, even if you're not sure what to say, just smile. It's the easiest way to seem friendly, and could really brighten someone's day. By the way, it works on dogs too; try it next time you see one on the street!

The power of hello, please and thank you.
As a child, adults will regularly ignore you, or even see you as a pest (don't be offended - it's not just you, it's every kid). But in your dealings with them, add a polite and clear "hello", "please" or "thank you". It will be noted. You will stop being invisible. And you might end up changing their opinions of all kids, not just you.

Say it, don’t think it!
You notice that a girl in your street has cool new shoes. Or a boy in class you don't usually talk to has done a really amazing drawing. Maybe your gran has a great new haircut. Well, don't just think it - say it! Compliments are like presents; they're SO appreciated. And they could make you new friends.

Be cross, but not for long.
Someone's been mean to you. It sucks and you're cross, naturally. But shake it off as quickly as you can, and get back to your normal, nice self. Everyone will see that the meanie didn't win. You did.

Imagine you're them.
You know your own feelings. But what about other people's? If someone's acting weird/stupid/shy/over-the-top, is there a reason? Before you react, take a second to figure out what might be going on with them. The biggest kindness you can bestow on a person is to see things from their point of view.

So those are my child-appropriate niceness tips. But re-reading them now, I'm wondering if I shouldn't wiggle them under the noses of a few adults I know!

We have three copies of Karen's new book Angels Next Door to give away to people who post on the thread.

By Karen McCombie

Twitter: @KarenMcCombie

tiggypiro Thu 10-Apr-14 12:45:39

Such wise words Karen which I would hope to pass on to my DGSs as they grow up. I would hope it is what we all try to do but seeing it in print somehow makes me think about it a little more.

penguinpaperback Thu 10-Apr-14 12:50:23

It's heartening to read this is the message you are giving out to your readers Karen. I remember living in a typical 1930's semi as a child and my daily walk from school would be greeting, waving to an old lady sitting in her armchair watching the world go by.

gillybob Thu 10-Apr-14 13:08:45

I have always lived by these rules and have passed them on to my daughter and grandchildren. Being pleasant and nice to someone doesn't cost anything at all and it makes me proud when I hear someone comment on how kind my daughter is or how cheerful. My daughter works in a large coffee chain and tells me stories about some of her "regulars" who come in for a smile and a chat aswell as the cup of coffee. Some (mainly elderly) people tell her that her kind words are the only words they will hear all day and it makes her very sad.

I am so glad I brought her up this way. smile

Excellent blog Karen

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 10-Apr-14 19:53:58

I find that very contrived and artificial. Why not just be a decent person yourself, then your kids will learn by copying your example. They just might turn out to be kind people, without having to remember to act out the rules.

Ana Thu 10-Apr-14 20:03:18

Oh, thank goodness you're back, jingl! smile
My thoughts entirely - and a lot of children haven't the confidence to follow those 'rules' anyway.

wurzel Fri 11-Apr-14 06:41:14

I think it's good to see positive messages brought to the fore; so much is cynical. Children learn from words as well as example, don't they?
Many people are fearful where I live, and keep their eyes averted from others. But my best communication recently came from a woman in a burka. Her eyes were fantastic and we smiled into each other's eyes with real warmth and pleasure, I will never forget it.

Experigran Fri 11-Apr-14 07:43:59

I have eleven grandchildren and two granddaughters have just started at different Universities.

One has had a very difficult childhood, always moving, never enough money, hand-me-down clothes and struggled at school. Her cousin has had a very different stable upbringing and is extremely clever, passing all her exams with top grades. However it is the first of the two that has the ready smile, is always kind and helpful to others, in fact, a delight. Maybe she can put herself in others' shoes. The other is self centred, often moody, sullen and silent. Guess which one is doing better at Uni.

Aka Fri 11-Apr-14 07:47:51

I think you mean a hijab wurzel as a burka has a mesh covering over the eye area.

I wondered how long before someone shot this down sad

gillybob Fri 11-Apr-14 08:41:00

I don't think it's contrived and artificial at all jingle infant I find it quite refreshing to read something nice for a change.

I think some people can only value "things" they can touch or hold. A fancy car, a big house or an expensive piece of jewellery. Something that they feel shows their personal value to society. Whereas just being nice to someone doesn't cost anything at all Experigran and perhaps your grandchild who had the more difficult upbringing has grown up to be an altogether nicer person because if it. smile

Aka Fri 11-Apr-14 08:44:14

Or more likely a niqab

[wanders off to google Muslim headgear]

NfkDumpling Fri 11-Apr-14 08:55:50

I'd like to print out the OP and give it to my eldest DGD. She's five and tries so hard! Would it breach copywriter or anything?

NfkDumpling Fri 11-Apr-14 09:01:59

I was brought up with a similar example from my beloved Nana. It means I meet wonderful people at bus stops and such. Following her guidelines has enriched life so much.

absent Fri 11-Apr-14 09:09:33

I am a little concerned about the suggestion of smiling at dogs. Like most of the rest of the animal kingdom, dogs bare their teeth as a sign of aggression and might well misinterpret a child's cheerful toothy grin.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 11-Apr-14 09:38:53

Aka I guess I just wasn't in the mood to be preached at by yet another "children's author" (I have crossed that out as I wouldn't want to be seen to be undermining anything by HQ) smile

Totally agree about the smiling at dogs thing. Ridiculous.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 11-Apr-14 09:40:40

As I said before gillybob, I think it's all in the upbringing generally. A few rules, learned parrot fashion, just won't serve.

gillybob Fri 11-Apr-14 10:10:46

It doesn't need to be and shouldn't be learned "parrot fashion" jingle it is something that children (hopefully) learn by following the example set by their parents and/or grandparents. Being nice and kind is hardly like learning the times tables is it?

I do draw the line as smiling at dogs. I would be too scared incase they smiled back ......knowingly. confused

absent Fri 11-Apr-14 10:16:21

Don't angels just spend their time singing god's praises, swanning around in heaven – that's why they have those big white wings – once in a blue moon visiting Sodom (or Gomorrah) and equally once in a blue moon announcing a virgin birth? Not much future in that is there?

merlotgran Fri 11-Apr-14 10:21:17

Two of my grandsons (brothers) couldn't be more different. They are both friendly, polite and well mannered but whereas one is helpful, eager to please, outgoing and a real charmer, the other is quiet, inclined to moodiness and less inclined to offer help.

Guess which one makes all the compromises, gets put upon, never complains and tends to live in his brother's shadow?

It doesn't always pay to be an angel.

gillybob Fri 11-Apr-14 10:23:02

Oh Absent haven't you heard of Earth Angels?
Apparently they look just like ordinary people walking around. No wings or halo's or anything remotely white and floaty. grin

rosesarered Fri 11-Apr-14 10:38:29

Gillybob your dog comment made me laugh [my first chuckle today.] Thanks, and here's a grin for you grin.
There has been so much stranger danger told to children that they rarely smile at adults.
Some children are naturally shy, and would find it hard to smile/chat to neighbours or passing strangers.
Outgoing kind of children often do though, and if anyone in the street spoke to my children , I always encouraged them to speak back or at least smile.When I was with them. Otherwise they were told to smile and move on and never go anywhere with someone.

harrigran Fri 11-Apr-14 11:32:12

My GD bought me a little china bear that had these words at the bottom " Grandmas are just angels in disguise " smile

nannymoocow Sat 12-Apr-14 17:34:41

Take the time to say good morning to someone you pass in the park, smiles cost nothing and often brighten peoples day. Speak to an elderly neighbour who may have no contact with anyone else that day. I have only had the confidence to do these things in recent years now I have "matured" and don't worry if I do not not get a smile or response back - at least I have tried and that makes me feel good.

I hope my daughters and grandsons will follow in my footsteps.

Nonu Sat 12-Apr-14 17:40:27

Well if you say so Absent !!

Nonu Sat 12-Apr-14 17:43:55

Absent , about the Angels bye the way !