Is virtue its own reward, or do nice guys finish last?

Yesterday afternoon I stopped at the bank on my way home from work. I put on my mask and got out of my car. A man who arrived in the parking lot just before me was getting out of his car; when he saw my mask, he realized he also needed to wear a mask and returned to his car. Closer to the door, I walked past a frail-looking white-haired woman with a cane. She was fumbling to get her mask adjusted. I could have gotten inside ahead of her. Instead, I waited at the door and held it open for her.

Two tellers were at their windows and there was no line. But one of the tellers was doing bank business on the computer and was not ready to work with customers. The woman I had allowed in front of me went to the other teller, and I waited in line on the red box, as the bank requires these days.

And I waited, and waited some more. The woman merely wanted to withdraw some cash from her checking account and also verify the balance in that account. But every step of this simple process took extra time, starting with finding her card and putting it into the banks machine. She had to take off her sunglasses, find her other glasses in her purse, and put them on. When the teller verified her balance, she asked also to confirm that another payment had already been processed. Even when she had gotten all the information she wanted and had received her cash, she continued to visit with the teller (who gently pointed out to her that other people were waiting in line). Still, she had to take the time to put her glasses back in her purse and put on her sunglasses before she left the spot in front of the teller.

I’m not complaining. I wasn’t in a hurry. I felt sorrier for the man who could have been in front of both of us, instead of fourth in line. (Another woman entered the bank behind me before he arrived with his mask.) But I did reflect on the choice I had made, holding the door open for a frail white-haired woman when I could have been first in line instead of having to wait. It further happened that, the instant the woman left and I took her place with the one teller, the other teller finished his task and called for the next customer.

“Virtue is its own reward” came to my mind. In a fairer universe, some privilege or blessing would have come my way because I held the door for the woman and let her enter the bank first. My courtesy was not rewarded; my time was wasted standing in line at the bank because of my choice to let her go first. A second phrase later occurred to me: “nice guys finish last.” Remembering that saying produced another rabbit hole to explore.

The saying is attributed to baseball manager Leo Durocher. I remember Durocher as manager of the Chicago Cubs, who for many years deserved their nickname of “America’s Lovable Losers.” Checking the Internet to see if Durocher indeed said, “nice guys finish last,” I discovered several boring and pointless facts. First, the saying is a brief summary of a longer statement he made about nice guys playing baseball and how they rank in the standings. Second, he did not say it about the Cubs; he said it about the New York Giants while Durocher was managing the Dodgers in 1946. Third, the expression “nice guys finish last” is linked to copious literature about human relationships and dating, including many scientific studies seeking to prove or disprove the adage that “nice guys finish last.” Connected to the saying and to the studies are observations that “nice guys” may be overlooked in the dating game, that “nice guys” often seem less assertive and confident and masculine than other guys, and that many men think they are “nice guys” when they are merely losers.

Not that any of this matters. More than anything else, I am flailing about, hunting for something to say on my blog, at a time when creative juices seem to have run dry. Not wanting to address the topics that preoccupy most of our minds (mine included) leaves me stuck in neutral, revving my engine at the red light, losing readers by my inactivity.

How is your day going? J.


15 thoughts on “Is virtue its own reward, or do nice guys finish last?

  1. I see you’ve met my mother .I’m fairly sure she is the whole reason they went and shut down the local branch of our bank. Of course it’s a 90 minute drive to the closest branch which is just about how long it takes her inside the bank, too. I had to wrangle her down and make her get an ATM card. Naturally she won’t change banks, won’t carry a cell phone, won’t drive, and won’t use a machine for banking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s funny, because a few years ago they closed our nearest branch and I have to drive to the bank instead of walking. It’s not 90 minutes, but still an inconvenience. I had a friend in college who resisted learning how to use a debit card–this is in the 1980s, mind you–because he thought it might be connected to the mark of the beast. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes there’s no moral or point readily apparent. That’s fine. It’s nice to be occupied reading something other than… you know.
    Especially since I am gearing up to alienate half my social media friends by saying some things that apparently need to be said before a certain event in 50-some days. I have been mum on politics no matter the bait but I think I’m going to have to be a responsible citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once the debates get started, I have to believe that people will see the choice for themselves. Meanwhile, I definitely need a break from constant bombardment regarding the election seven weeks away, social justice, and pestilence. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Our respective politics sucks to each other… but I liked this post. Very good real life perspective. 🙂 I’ve also been in exactly the same situations in life. I look at it this way… nice guys may finish last, but we still finish.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for showing kindness to the elderly woman. Being one myself, were often overlooked or just plain invisible. Everyone moves so fast and us elders feel like an intrusion on their space. I’m sure the woman was grateful. What is it in the Bible about the first being last and the last first?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That “last will be first and first will be last” is coming up this Sunday. But after years of study, I have come to the conclusion that only One deserves to be first (and only One has done a full day of honest labor deserving any reward), but He makes Himself last so we can receive the benefits that belong to Him alone. The best we can do is imitate His example. J.

      Liked by 3 people

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