My husband and I like to play a little game when we go for walks. Sometimes we say “hello” first and see if the person(s) will respond. Sometimes they do, sometimes they ignore us and sometimes they look shocked that we acknowledged them (I get particular satisfaction out of that one). Sometimes we make eye contact and see how many people will say “hello” to us first. Not many do. Sometimes we TRY to make eye contact but the walkers/joggers/runners ignore us totally. I find this behavior so rude. Does it take so much effort to acknowledge a fellow human being with a simple “hello” or “hi”?
I remember a gal in my high school class. She had a megawatt smile and a hello for everyone regardless of their social high school status (you know: jocks, nerds, druggies, basers, etc.). One day, I was doing my usual routine which involved keeping to myself and walking close to the hallway wall, when this blonde all-American girl smiled brightly and said, “Hi!” I remember looking behind me to see if she was speaking to someone else. I was alone in the hallway and when I turned around her blue eyes met mine and I knew she was acknowledging me. I actually thought, “What is a cheerleader doing acknowledging me?! That’s so weird.” But her simple act, her common courtesy is one that left me feeling uplifted. I liked how it felt being seen by someone I didn’t think saw me.
I’m also reminded of the statement, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Well, if we hold with that teaching, how does a stranger become an acquaintance and then possibly a friend? And why is it so naughty to make eye contact with someone you don’t know, smile and acknowledge that you see them? Why are we teaching our children it’s acceptable to ignore others?
In a world where we are telling our boy/girlfriends we are breaking up with them via a text (oh puhhhLEASE!!!), is it really such a burden to greet the people whom you share this earth with?
I watch our 19 month old daughter. She doesn’t censor whom she says “hi” or even “bye” to. She hasn’t learned to censor. In fact, she says “bye bye” to passing cars, the laundry machine and to barking dogs. She’ll disarm my frustration by looking at me, smiling and whispering, “hi” over and over again. As a side note, you can’t be frustrated with a toddler when she’s smiling and repeatedly whispering, “hi.” It completely derails you, in the most beautiful of ways.
Back to task. I’d like to see if you’ll try an experiment. If smiling, making eye contact and saying “hi” or “hello” to strangers feels foreign to you, turn it into one (or more) of your random act of kindnesses for the day. As always, the more you do something, the easier it becomes.
My husband and I have found the people we previously greeted first on our walks now smile and greet US first. I love it.
One should never underestimate the impact of a smile and a simple hello. It made a difference for me those 30 plus years ago.