Slice of Life – On Planting Cacti and Kindness vs. Niceness

May 16, 2023

Keith and I planted a barrel cactus this week. Last year I planted that blue agave in the background.

Now my sister has brought over some clippings from other cacti. This evening, in the coolness and shade, I will plant these pieces and then trim the area with rocks to make a little cactus garden. More photos later.

Another thing on my mind this week is kindness and what it really means. See chapter 2 of White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better for more.

Kindness vs. Niceness

“Your nice is actually evil,”
Saira and Regina say,
“Kindness…is a killer to your niceness.”
Most of my life I haven’t considered
the two as being contrary–
though I do know the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
No mention of nice, nicer, nicest,
niceness, niceties, overnice…

One of my mother’s stated goals for all
her seven kids was that we would be nice.
A lifetime has brought me here, for
I became a nice success.
Now I find myself with further
unlearning to do.
So much of my niceness is driven by fear–
fear of standing out
fear of sitting in
fear of disappointing others
fear of making waves
fear of not being liked
fear of lacking strength
fear of fear of fear
to be, to do, to say the kind thing
sometimes kindness isn’t nice
always kindness isn’t easy
fear doesn’t have to be the winner
be kind

I just went outside and finished step 1. The rocks are a bigger deal. Maybe tomorrow.

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life – On Planting Cacti and Kindness vs. Niceness

  1. This is something for me to ponder as I led a field trip today and gave the kids two goals: kindness and friendship. I want to pose the question to my students for them to think about. There is a difference.

  2. Denise, your post raises questions about kindness and friendship. I remember when I was in the classroom we discussed the differences between tolerance, acceptance, and embracing. These lead to some interesting discussions and some passionate responses. I like that students can distinguish situations where each is observed. Your cacti are going to be beautiful in the rock garden. Is that a Saguaro cactus? My daughter loves cactus gardens and they have one of those large ones that grows very tall. It’s amazing how long they can live and how valuable they get when they are grown.

  3. Love the cacti, Denise – what a beautiful garden you are creating! Your poem is fascinating, deep with meaning. The line, “So much of my niceness is driven by fear–,” followed by the list of lines beginning with ‘fear’…this is so powerful, with ‘fear’ sounding percussive. I can imagine this as spoken word.

    Your opening line, ““Your nice is actually evil,” I’m going to continue to think deeply about this.

  4. Denise,
    I am so proud of you for continuing to share your learning and your journey growing out of “White Women.” That distinction between kind and nice spoke to me, too, but in a different way. I think I’m kind, but I’m not always nice. Maybe that’s the debater in me. Maybe it’s living in an area where I’ve been an outsider because of religion. Yesterday a friend mentioned to several of us how difficult mother’s day is because of her daughter-in-law who excludes her and her husband based on religion. I looked at my friend and said, “I’m listening to you and the pain you feel from being excluded. You do realize, don’t you, that’s how I’ve felt living here and being excluded from weddings because I’m not Mormon?” My friend is Mormon. One other lady present us Mormon, and the other one is not, The other mormon lady said, “That’s because it’s the temple.” I did not acknowledge her remark as the label on the building means nothing to me. Exclusion is exclusion. Maybe that wasn’t nice. I’m okay with that. BTW, love the cactus garden,

  5. My library has the book White Women…, so I’ll get it today. The “sandwich” structure you use so beautifully here with the tough stuff as “filling” and cactus as the “bread” works so well. “My lifetime has brought me here for/I became a nice success,” those lines move me so. I also read the summary on Amazon with the closing lines, “If you are not ticking white people off on a regular basis, you are not doing it right.” I know I still need some education. Thanks for this.

  6. Denise, I must admit that I have not pondered the difference between kindness and niceness but surely will do this now. I agree with Maureen that your opening line is definitely one to ponder. Love your cacti garden.

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