There was a time or at least a perception of a more pleasant time when people acknowledged one another with courtesy and respect. As a man and woman walked pass each other she would smile and he would tip his hat.
Now before you start on how the world is so much more hectic and everyone is ultra-multi-tasking, that is not an excuse for not being civil. Sure there are more people everywhere now and we are constantly distracted by all sorts of digital items and everyone is in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t play nice with each other.
We somehow can get alone at work, even when hiding under headphones and behind computer screens, we have to cooperate in some semblance of teamwork or lose our paycheck. We get along at sporting events as long as we are on the same side and wearing the same colors. We get along in schools and in church until the bell rings. We maintain some sort of order in the family even with extensions.
My point again concerns the grocery store. It is the one place we all get together. It is like a watering hole where animals that normally kill or flee each other gather in peace. The guy with the three piece pinstripe suit talking to his banker or stock broker chooses the same beans as the frantic mother with three screaming kids. The elderly woman choosing a laundry detergent shuffles down the same aisle as the purple haired girl in cargo jeans.
And yet we pass one another without a sign of recognition. Have we become that afraid of humanity?
Fully understand the reluctance to comment to a common stranger. Too busy hopping into our sheltered vehicles and rushing home to watch disastrous interactions between cults and extremist and folks who just cannot be together without killing one another. Even the video games are all about destroying each other.
Customer service personnel are constantly trained on keeping a level head and positive personality while being bombarded with all sorts of rude behavior from customers. Public officials and emergency responders also have to deal with the public face-to-face and sometimes in the most stressful situations.
A simple “Hello” or stopping to open a door for another or even a ‘Thank you’ can go a long way. When we do a good deed the brain releases endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine and we feel better.
My challenge to myself (and you) is to smile. While wandering the aisles of cornflakes and diapers and toilet cleaners, smile at the people you pass. There are those who will not respond and there are those so insecure they will not even make eye contact, but now and then you will get a smile back. I’m not saying go up and hug strangers but if you really want to? To me it is just common courtesy. I can tell when folks are having bad days or out of sorts, but that doesn’t have to bring you down. Besides a little act of kindness may turn around their day and a little happy expression was worth it. Either way, it doesn’t cost you anything and you might just help us all get along.
Give it a try and have a great day.