Sam and Elliott Coffey 2017

On a brilliantly sunny and warm day a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I packed up our kids and went to the zoo.

Apparently everyone else in Omaha thought it was a good idea, too.

Toward the end of our visit, we decided to stop at one of the pavilion areas and get lunch.

After about 10 minutes in line, a woman walked up to me and, noticing we’d scanned the area unsuccessfully for a table, offered us hers. “We’re about ready to leave anyway,” she said.

It was a simple gesture, and she probably didn’t even think much about doing it, but it really reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

And today, I know we can all use those little bits of affirmation that the world isn’t entirely full of hatred, violence and bad people.

I made sure my two sons, Sam and Elliott, noticed, too. I made sure they said thank you. I pointed out how nice it was that she offered to let us sit at their table instead of on the concrete.

I try to do this a lot.

If I could ask anything of my parenting experience, it’s that I raise nice children who turn into nice teenagers and nice adults.

I hope they find ways to use their talents for good. But above all, I just want them to be people who others know as being kind. Thoughtful. Considerate.

I want them to be the people who offer up their seat to someone in need, who go out of their way to hold open a door or give a homeless person the remaining couple of dollars in their pocket that they’d planned to buy a pop with.

Are they always nice today? No. They’re 5 and 2. But the seeds of kindness have been planted, and I really enjoy witnessing the fruits of my labor.

During our car ride home the other day, Elliott was having a hard time keeping the sun out of his eyes. Without prompting, Sam held up his book bag and blocked the sun for his little brother.

Another day, Sam was upset he couldn’t have a toy Elliott was playing with. Elliott, only a toddler, willingly gave it up for his big brother so Sam wouldn’t be sad.

Recently, Elliott stepped on our cat’s tail, and she meowed loudly and scampered off. Elliott felt so bad that he chased her around trying to apologize and give her a hug.

I’ll continue to instill kindness in them, and I’ll also continue to point out the kindness of others. During difficult times, it’s always nice to know the world is still full of wonderful people who care.

Nebraska Nice in action: More than 5 dozen stories of everyday folks helping each other

Every day, people around Omaha lend a hand to help their neighbor or complete strangers. Take a look at a few examples of Nebraska Nice in action.

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Abbey Dyer, a Girl Scout for 12 years who then was a sophomore at Millard South High School, was searching for a project for a Gold Award — the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. She reached out to Heartland Hope’s volunteer coordinator, Amanda DeVries, asking if she could revamp the play area, free of charge.

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When Tyler Howard arrived in the neighborhood this month to set up the Omaha-based stand, his own kids befriended those living nearby who hung around the pop-up tent, curious. He began to give them tasks in exchange for a few dollars and has since watched them take on the cleanup project with an ambition and excitement of their own.

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