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It ain’t easy being nice

Jud Knox is the founder of Heart to Heart: Services for People with Age.

Lessons for Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Portland, Maine-- At our favorite breakfast restaurant here in Portland, one of the better wait staff just walked off the job, blurting out, "I quit!" She was upset that she wasn't getting her fair share of table referrals. Her boyfriend felt he must follow her, so he also walked off the job on the spot.

It ain't easy being nice.

These "I quit" scenes— typical of the Great Resignation movement— are happening all over the country at a pace we've never seen before. In August, a record 4.3 million job resignations occurred in the U.S., a level that had never been reached before.

Adults throw tantrums in grocery stores, airplanes and retail establishments.

Last month, a first-class passenger on an American Airlines flight was irritated that a flight attendant had accidentally bumped him in the aisle. He responded by assaulting the flight attendant, consequently breaking her nose. The plane had to make an emergency landing where the flight attendant was hospitalized and the ill-tempered passenger was arrested.

It ain't easy being nice.

It isn't just employees and customers who are losing their sense of grace nowadays. This outbreak of tantrums has spread to educational institutions. School board meetings used to be uneventful as they were conducted in civility.

Those days are gone. Disagreements over mask mandates create angry and disruptive forums, sometimes requiring police intervention.

It ain't easy being nice.

I was beginning to wonder if there are still paragons of pleasantness left in our society. Then I thought of Jud Knox, who was the CEO of York Hospital in York, Maine for 38 years. In March 2020, the hospital board decided to replace Jud.

The hospital is located off of Loving Kindness Way, a street name that has come to exemplify the community’s experience with the hospital’s staff and services.

Hospitals are businesses, and certainly have the right and responsibility to select who they think is best to lead the organization. But when it comes to replacing a hospital CEO, sometimes it ain't easy being nice.

For anyone who loses a job they’ve held for decades, it ain't easy being nice. The natural human reaction is to lash out and speak negatively of the people who have just "dumped" you.

Having worked alongside Jud for many years in the Maine Hospital Association, I had come to appreciate his positive attributes, as well as his knowledge of the industry and what it takes to be an effective leader in a complicated industry.

I was not surprised then that Jud did not say one bad thing about his long-standing employer when asked to comment on his abrupt departure from York Hospital.

It ain't easy being nice.

During the first year of the pandemic, rather than sulk and spend his energy thinking angry thoughts toward his ex-employer, Jud spent his time thinking about the needs of his community and how he could help.

In 2021, as things opened up in Maine, Jud started the program "Heart to Heart: Services for People with Age." It's a mission-based program with services for people with age in the York area.

Transportation is offered for any reason at any time for those with need.

Need help grocery shopping? Just call Jud and his volunteer service will provide assistance and/or transportation. Pharmacy pickups needed? Just call Jud.

Feeling lonely or without any friends? Volunteers are available for friendly telephone reassurance.

Volunteers can also provide assistance with meal deliveries.

I read about Jud's altruistic program in The Portsmouth Herald. So I decided to call Jud. What an enlightening conversation.

I learned from Jud that the need for transportation with seniors is overwhelming. Heart to Heart is now providing a ton of transports for older adults. What fascinates Jud is that these older recipients of his service are sharing their interesting stories and perspectives on life with their volunteer drivers.

One of Jud's favorite riders is a 100-year-old anthropologist, who has the mind of a 36-year-old despite his weak body.

A large number of the older souls that Jud's program is helping are desperately alone. Stories of splintered families are sadly all too common. One senior with a four-point cane can tell great stories from experiences in life but hasn't heard from his family for years.


Unfortunately, the amount of depression and despair among people of age is pervasive and largely outside society's radar screen. Learning of this and being able to address the problem, even in a small way, has Jud pumped.

Jud tells me that this experience of finding a way to meet the needs of others is one of the neatest things he has ever done. Jud says he is “lucky to still be learning.”

Jud Knox, a man who had many reasons to be angry with life, has restored my faith in, humankind and shown me an important lesson: It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.

Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a health care consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at

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