When I lived in Ireland, I had a 30 minute walk to school every day from my flat in Copley Court. The walk was beautiful, winding along the River Lee, past the Beamish brewery and past St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
Upon getting closer to the campus of University College Cork, my walk took me into neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were the quintessential Irish row houses that I had imagined would be “so Ireland” long before I moved there.
The air was always fresh and cool (and often rainy), and the smell of the peat stoves in the cozy Irish houses and the Beamish brewery, which was still operating at that time, were a constant reminder of the beautiful country I was lucky enough to live in for a time.
On my first walk to the university, for the international student orientation, I passed a house with an elderly man sitting in his back yard with, what else, but a giant, shaggy English sheepdog. This man boomed to me in his Irish brogue “nice day”, in such a way that made me instantly break into a giant smile. Again, so filled with gratitude to be in this welcoming country. I enthusiastically, in my much less cool American accent, said: “yes it is! I hope you have a wonderful day!” as I hurried past so as not to be late for orientation.
“Wow, what an auspicious sign to happen to see this man on my first day!”, I thought to myself.
The next day I saw the same man, and he gave me the same simple greeting, filled with compassion and well meaning. Again, I felt so blessed to be here and was happy my morning walk to school aligned with his morning tea outside. As a quick side note, the Irish drink more tea per capita than the British (or at least this is what they told me), a fact they are very proud of, a pride I found incredibly endearing.
It soon became apparent that this man was out in his yard every morning, wishing every student that walked by a nice day. It was pouring rain the majority of the time, and yet there he would be, under his tiny porch roof, booming over the sound of the rain “nice day!”
My friends and I began to look forward to seeing this man, we even started referring to him as “Nice Day.”
“Did you see ‘Nice Day’ today?” we would ask each other as we all got home after a long day of class.
While there, I always appreciated this simple daily encounter. At the time, I thought of it strictly as the beauty of human kindness. Of how a simple smile, or kind and encouraging word, can make the difference in a perfect stranger’s day, can turn a person’s day around from a “bad day” to a “good day.”
8 years have passed since I lived in Ireland and I still think about “Nice Day”. A lot of life has passed since then. I have lived on both coasts of the United States before returning to my roots in the mountains.
Now when I am reminded of “Nice Day” I think of it as even deeper than human compassion. There is another facet, one that can only be appreciated after living through both positive and negative experiences. It is the ability to wake up day after day and say to yourself “I will MAKE today a nice day.” It’s choosing to view each day as a blessing, a new opportunity to start fresh. There is absolutely no way that man woke up happy and positive every day. I have no idea what he’d experienced-good or bad-during his long life. Yet every day he greeted the day, and every passing human, with a smile and a sentiment that, indeed, it is a new day and it will be a nice day.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize how true the statement “attitude is everything” is.
We don’t get to choose what happens to us in life. But we do get to choose how we will react to what happens to us. We do get to choose how we will move forward in life, regardless of what positive or negative event comes our way. We do get to wake up every day, knowing that the day is filled with opportunity and hope. We get to wake up every day and think to ourselves, “today will be a nice day.”
Run on, my friends.