When I smile at you on the bus or hand back the rest of a gift card or help you with your bags, it is an IAN. It is an Intentional Act of Niceness. It is because the world would be better with more love and niceness and care in it.
It is because I know what it feels like to not have that. My regular place of work, the thing that has the ability (when my support system cannot or doesn’t compensate) to take away my gentle, is lacking in IANs. Benjamin Hoff explains, through the all-seeing eyes of Eeyore:
“‘Not conversing,’ said Eeyone. ‘Not first one and then the other. You said “Hallo” and Flashed Past. I saw your tail in the distance as I was meditating my reply. I had thought of saying “What?” – but, of course, it was then too late.’ ‘Well, I was in a hurry.’ ‘No Give and Take,’ Eeyore went on. ‘No Exchange of Thought: “Hallo – What” – I mean, it gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person’s tail is only just in sight for the second half of the conversation'” (96).
Making others feel loved, or even worth it, that takes care, attention, niceness — intention. I am on the bus (because I want to leave a car to make my parents and brother’s lives easier) going to my grandparents to help them prepare their house for sale, doing the things that they would otherwise be alone to do because I love them. No — I’m doing it so that I attend to that love, intentionally doing what many other members of the family can’t find time to do (but who will send you an email on your birthday or RECEIVE a birthday phone message from you, without response). I’m doing it because Intentional Acts of Niceness attend to love, foster it and make it grow. IANs are my mission!