A Back-to-School Favorite that Money Can’t Buy

We’re finally back to school, and I’ve searched high and low for more favorites to share with you. After all, this is a prime season for cute, creative things—first-day outfits, supplies, backpacks, lunchboxes, and even special family dinners and traditions. I’ve been hunting for deals and steals, easy weeknight meals, and other fun things to do as a family during the new school year. This week, however, I came across something that money can’t buy… something that I believe will bring more joy—and cost considerably less—than any of the things about which I had originally intended to write.

A few days ago, my daughter and I attended our annual National Charity League chapter-wide kickoff meeting. At the meeting, one of our “Inspiration” chairs—who also works at Rice University—shared her advice to the girls for the new chapter year. She told us that, as part of the Rice MBA program, each new incoming class is told to do one thing. And it’s simple: be nice.

Even if we can’t change the world, we can certainly change someone’s life for the better if we are just nice to them. Sound trite? Try it. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to prove me wrong. This world is full of hate. Our school-year lives are full of selfish behavior, backstabbing gossip, scowls, exclusion, and jaw-dropping insults—and I’m not talking about just the kids. Of particular concern are social media accounts and the corresponding comments; I’m often baffled by the outpouring of pure hatred that can be seen in the comment section of an online post. What sort of endorphin does this feed in the critic’s mind? What wrong does it seem to right for them? What need does it fulfill? I’m simply mystified. Wouldn’t it be much more rewarding to build someone up or help them out in some way?

So my “back to school” favorite to share is this, as conventional and uninteresting as it seems: be nice. Teach your kids to be nice. And specifically, as the school year begins, challenge yourself, and your children, to simply help those in need and, perhaps more importantly, to refrain from making hateful or insulting comments about others not only at school, but on social media. It’s just not nice. In fact, it can ruin lives—in unimaginable ways.

Let’s make the school year ahead a great one, friends. Be nice. It’s easy—and free.