Welcome to Geek of the Week, where we highlight and profile a special geek… well, every single week.
Today we’ve got Melissa Morris Ivone of Operation Nice, a blog dedicated towards inspiring folks to be nice to one another. She offers up cute little tips and suggestions with a lovely smile and sparkling wit. Read up about her, the reasons she started the site, and more.
So! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Jersey girl all the way. Grew up in Toms River, went to The College of New Jersey, and moved to South Jersey after college. I love living close to Philadelphia. I get to experience great shows, lectures, exhibits, etc. whenever I want, but I still go home to ample parking and convenient grocery experiences. And I never have to pump my own gas. During the day, I work as a graphic designer for a company near Love Park.
Why did you start Operation NICE?
Operation NICE was started for purely selfish reasons, which is kind of ironic, I suppose. After a really frustrating commute that involved many an expletive on I-95, I was ready to punch a wall. I waited in the lobby of my building for an elevator with another gentleman. When the door opened, I fully expected him to ignore me and head for the door. Instead, he held out his hand and smiled, motioning for me to go first. Ahhh, chivalry isn’t dead.
So on the elevator we made small talk about the weather, and I noticed that by the time I got to my floor, I was in a great mood. All because of a simple, nice gesture. So I thought to myself, “People should do nice things for others more often. I should get the word out.” So I did. The only way I knew how. By starting a blog.
Where do you see Operation NICE going?
I’m not sure! I’ve played around with a book proposal, but I’m no author, so I tend to get overwhelmed and stop working on it. I’d love to start a program that can be implemented in schools across the country (or world!) because I believe we have to start niceness early. I feel like there isn’t as big of an emphasis on manners nowadays when it comes to kids.
My husband teaches high school and taught middle school in Camden, so I’ve heard stories. If there could be activities to show children how important it is to be kind to others, that could really help. I’d love to work on that.
Have you been surprised by the responses you’ve gotten from readers? Has there been anything in particular that made you think “This is why I started this site.”
When I started Operation NICE, I thought I’d have about five readers. I never thought it would turn into anything more than a blog where I ramble for a while, and then after a few months, I’d drop it. So when people actually started following my blog, I was stunned. And getting some press early on was insane. Diane Sawyer talked about my blog! Cue girly squeal.
The people that read my site are amazing! Well sure, they’re all people that value kindness, so they’re supportive and helpful and all that good stuff. I get the best emails from people. One girl told me that she had to write a college application essay about her role model, and she picked me!! I started crying immediately. Me?? I’m not even half as nice as the people I write about on my blog!
Philly can sometimes have a… reputation when it comes to our niceness. Have you found this to be true, untrue or does it vary? How hard is it to get Philadelphians to be nice?
Philly is tough. I can’t really compare it to any other city since this is the only one where I’ve spent a lot of my time. But yeah, kindness seems to not be a priority here. A year and a half ago, on the anniversary of Operation NICE, I decided to spread some kindness in Rittenhouse Square by passing out flowers to strangers. They had little tags on them that said, “This gesture is courtesy of Operation NICE. Pass it on!” Two of my Twitter friends joined me, and we set out to make people’s days.
I was stunned by the amount of people that said, “No,” to me. It was like they thought I would ask them for something in return. Are acts of kindness so rare that people don’t know how to react to them? I even got into a conversation with a young couple sitting by the fountain. When they said “no,” I had to ask “why?” They admitted that they thought it was suspicious. Suspicious! I was able to convince them that I was just trying to spread kindness, and they were happy to partake. But what was supposed to be an awesome day of kindness ended up with me feeling pretty crappy about it all.
But you know what? I’m going to keep trying. When I wait an extra few seconds to hold a door for someone and they seem shocked, that means it’s not happening enough. I don’t think the people of Philadelphia are nasty or mean or crabby. I just think they’re caught up in their busy lifestyles and maybe forgot about how important (and easy) it is to be nice to one another.
To learn more about Operation NICE, visit the official website.
Have a friend you’d like to see featured as Geek of the Week? Email us at geekadelphia[at]gmail.com.