Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So Nice in SoHo

SoHo Baby Grace #2
Playing peek-a-boo with Grace

I got to spend Sunday afternoon with two of my favorite ladies - Becks and Baby Grace.

Despite my repeated admonishments to "Stop growing up!", Baby Grace continues to grow, get new teeth and learn new tricks. On Sunday she showed off her latest accomplishment: waving. And I'll tell you what - when that baby smiled and waved at me, I was wrecked. Done for. Heart completely melted. As her name implies, Grace is amazing.

But then - I'd expect nothing less from the daughter of Becks - one of the most amazing people I know. They are a fun pair, those two.

We strolled the streets of SoHo, looking at the art for sale on the sidewalks of West Broadway. There was an artist showing some amazing photography on canvas - scenes of Venice canals and a beach at dawn and a pretty tree. Another artist – whose display tables stretched the length of an entire block – seemed to have an unnatural obsession with drawing large lady bottoms.

We walked by an artist arranging piles of colorful posters, and he stopped us to remark on Grace’s cuteness (few can resist her charms). After chit-chatting for just a moment, the artist asked us, “Would you like a free poster?”

Instantly we were suspicious.  I felt my posture change, stiffen; I wanted to back away. Why would this man want to give us something for nothing? What’s the catch?

He assured us there was no catch – he wasn’t looking for anything in return. He just wanted to give us a gift.

“I sell a lot of my pieces online,” he explained, “But I like to come out here, in person, and give posters away to people. I want to share my art, do a nice thing.”

He introduced himself as Michael Albert, and we learned that his art is mainly collage, using photographs and commercial packaging. It's quite cool.  Michael explained how his art had evolved in this direction, showing us one collage that spelled out the 19th Ammendment and another that formed a brightly colored map of the U.S. There was also a cubist-esque piece made entirely from a Frosted Flakes box.

After speaking with Michael for awhile, I decided he was an earnest and genuine person; someone who loves what he does and wants to share that love with others.  I felt bad for suspecting ulterior motives in his offer of a poster - he was just trying to be nice.

Unfortunately, I think I'm conditioned to expect people not to be nice.  I'm conditioned to be suspicious and wary.  I'm used to people using people. 

I was a little sad to find myself surprised by niceness.

Rather than lamenting what a mean state the world is in nowadays, I think I'll take a line from Gandhi and brainstorm how I can be the change I want to see.  Justin Timberlake brought sexy back; how can I bring nice back? 

Baby Grace shares her smiles, Michael Albert shares his art; what piece of joy can I share?  Who can I hold a door for today?  Can I stop and tell a street musician, "I like your style!" instead of just rushing past without eye contact?  Can I ask Joe at the laundromat how his day is going, instead of just asking him to make change?  Can I make a Monday nicer by making cookies for my co-workers?

Food for thought and things to ponder and fodder for future experiments in niceness.

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