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Monday, June 30, 2008

Just Smile!

This morning I stopped in to my neighborhood 7-11 for the caffeine fix and as I walked in, the guy behind the counter wished me a good morning. Like I would anytime I'm addressed happily like that, I turned around and wished him the same. When I got to the counter to pay, he said "I really appreciate the way you stopped to acknowledge me this morning. That doesn't happen often, and it actually makes me want to wish people a good morning." This struck me as odd. Isn't it just considerate to look at someone when they address you? I asked him if he was serious, cause it really blows my mind when I realize how rude we can be in general, as a society. Now whether or not this is the breakdown of the American family, blah blah, I don't know. I have a sneaking suspicion the glory days of old really weren't all that golden either. But regardless. You can't even turn to smile when someone genuinely wishes you a good morning?

So this brings me back to the social experiment I'd talked about a couple of weeks back. I was actually pleasantly surprised there. This was highly un-scientific, meaning there was a day or two I forgot to write down exacts, but here are my results. In a two week period, I came across about 47 people during my walks. Of those 47, about half were under 21. Of those under 21, more than 85% did NOT even make eye contact with me. So great, I'm old enough to scare kids. That's when you know you're middle aged! For the half over 21, almost all of them at least made eye contact with me, and about 60% of them actually greeted me with a "Hello" or some variation of sorts. One guy last week that I saw two days in a row even shook my hand on day two and expressed he was happy to see me a second day. However, he was sitting on a low brick wall drinking from a brown bag, so, ya know.

What does all that say to me (besides the fact that I'm old enough to make teenagers nervous)? I think in general, a lot of people are still friendly. I think those who chose to ignore me walking by or who refused to smile back are easy to focus on, and that's not how it should be. It's so easy to make or ruin someone's day with our actions. A simple smile, even to a stranger, can be a totally uplifting experience. So focus on the little things someone does for you today, even if it's a genuine "good afternoon" from the guy at 7-11. And smile back, damnit!


Vegas Princess said...

I am going to have to try that social experiment myself because I don't think I ever noticed if people smiled back or not. I just always assumed I got a pleasant response back. However, I will be more aware of their responses from now on.

Perhaps it is society telling kids to not trust strangers. I know I grew up greeting everyone but in this day and age some people may see that as an invitation to snatch their kids.

LoraLoo said...

VP: Ya know, I never really thought of it that way (kids and strangers). I suppose I would expect Madison to be much the same when she's old enough to be walking with friends. Good point.

Fred said...

Interesting observations when you took your walks.

I'm always amazed at students who barely give me the time of day after they've been in my class for a year.

While they're in my class, they're absolutely engaging, but the following year, some of them continue to walk by with no eye contact at all.

Go figure.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Great experiment. Its sad in some ways. Teenagers are a weird breed so nothing they do or don't do surprises me but its disturbing that so few people say hi to each other, like the 7-11 guy.

Angi said...

One day I was at the DMV getting new handicap tags - and our DMV here is super strict. You gotta have EVERYTHING and you gotta pay cash (or checks for registration). I had to run to my car to get my insurance, and this nice lady with her 17 y/o daughter saved my spot. While waiting I heard them over say they were $2 short and I knew that if they didn't have the money it would be a total waste of time for them. So I gave the girl the moeny and they were so taken back by it. They asked me are you sure. I said it's only $2, it's a random act of kindness and I just ask that you pass it on (a RAK, doing something nice for someone instead of looking away or ignoring things). I'm not sure if they did pass the RAK on, but I hope they did and learned from it. It's something I try to do when I can. People here are so different, all our neighbors wave and say hi in stores, so being kind has become a way of life here.

Teleolurian said...

I try not to ignore people, but I also work on code while I'm walking around and don't recognize people speaking to/honking at/trying not to drive over me. HEY EVERYONE, I'M REALLY SORRY, BUT TEH CODEZ IS COMPLICATED.

Thank you.