Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that read “I Hate Mean People.” What kind of person is the driver in front of me? I wondered. And why focus on the mean, the bad, the ugly when we can choose to focus on the kind and gracious people in life?

Sometimes we forget the value of niceness—of just smiling and being pleasant and courteous. Of thinking of simple ways to affirm and encourage others. It doesn’t take much time or a big commitment of energy to be nice. In fact, when we’re in the habit, we may not even consider that we are being nice.

I was taking pictures at a recent Mid-America event when a young man came over and spoke to me. My husband and I have long been friends with his parents and I remembered him as an elementary student from a place we previously lived. He reminded me of the week he had spent at our house when he was having problems at school and had been suspended.

Since neither of his parents could take him to their work places they asked me, then a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers, if he could bring his school books and spend those days at our home. It had been an uneventful week, and I had forgotten all about it. But he remembered it well.

“Thanks for being nice to me,” he said. “You didn’t treat me like a problem child.”

What was a routine week in my life had made enough of an impression on this young man (now a teacher in an Adventist academy) that 15 years later when he saw me he went out of his way to thank me—just for being nice.

As we celebrate World Kindness Day this November, remember the power of niceness. You never know when you are making a positive, lasting difference in someone’s life.