Why do I like being around her so much? It's very simple, really.
She is kind.
She is funny, and smart, and talented, and many other things, but just by the simple kindness of her nature, she drew me to her when I had a chance to chat. We never had deep conversations about the meaning of the world, but she was just like a breath of fresh air in the often frenetic and stressful atmosphere of large family gatherings like ours usually were.
She is nothing like me.
I'm not cruel by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm sort of soft-hearted, for certain things. But I'm judgmental, I don't give people the benefit of the doubt, and man, oh man, do I get annoyed with people. I've been told, recently, that even if I smile and try to "be nice," my annoyance comes off of me in invisible waves. "Nice" and "kind" are not the same thing.
Being nice is outward, it's the shell, and it's often not genuine, or at least not heartfelt.
Being kind, that's inward. It's a state of mind and heart. It involves Christlike love.
When I think of kindness, I often think of mercy. The definition actually kind of shocked me and made sense at the same time: "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm."
It does make sense, in our daily interactions, don't we ALL have the power to harm each other? With a look, or even a thought, since our thoughts determine our actions? So, we all have the power to show compassion or forgiveness (or the determination to forgive before any slight even occurs).
Mercy--giving others the benefit of the doubt--makes it easier to "be nice" because we are already "being kind."
Thinking about how much mercy we are being afforded by our Heavenly Father and our Savior should make it easier to show mercy to those around us.
When I was in the MTC, a particular Elder annoyed me so incredibly I though I was going to die. I also thought I did a great job of hiding it, until one day when that Elder shared this verse in our group scripture study:
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
He pointed out that he was in need of friendship, and that he had put up his petition in vain to some in our group. He looked me in the eyes when he said it, and it hit me--I had been placing it all on him. HE was so annoying. HE was bothering me. Whatever coldness or sarcasm I threw his way, depleting his emotional and spiritual "substance," was clearly because he had brought upon himself his misery.
I was so wrong. I later begged for forgiveness and tried to understand where he was coming from, to just offer kindness, and mercy, and friendship. Our relationship changed and we were both the better for it.
To this day, when I sing "Lord, I Would Follow Thee" and come to this verse, I think of sweet, goofy Elder Baggett and how he taught me about mercy and kindness:
"Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden, sorrow that the eye can't see. Who am I to judge another? Lord, I would follow thee."
I know I am so far less than perfect. I desperately need mercy from the Lord and from my fellow travelers on this journey. I also, just as urgently need to show a little more mercy to those around me. Thank goodness for the Atonement and the ability to trip and fall and get up and try again, as often as we need to until we learn the lesson.