Call me weird, but I like to say hi to people. I enjoy acknowledging someone’s presence when walking past them on a sidewalk, when running by them on a beach, walking by them on a hike, and just greeting someone in general. You know a quick smile, a nod, a wave, or, even the full blown verbal greeting known as, hi.
Maybe it’s my mom. She will strike up a conversation with anyone, and the next minute they are telling her their life story. Yes, this is a characteristic that I’m beyond proud to inherit.
Trust me, I don’t expect everyone on the planet to be this way, and I know people are hurting in all kinds of ways at any given time. But doesn’t a smile, or some eye contact, at least help a bit. Or shouldn’t that be our natural response? Instead of just doing nothing? We’re an interactive species, why don’t people like to interact?
Let me give some examples.
Last week while I was running on the beach in Hanalei (one of my all time favorite runs), I did something I always do, wave and smile at every person I pass. Half the people smiled, or waved back, a few were engrossed in conversation, a few ignored me, and then quite a few just stared blankly at me, almost surprised, or offended looking. No I wasn’t running topless in a sombrero or anything like that.
My husband works on a college campus. Every now and then I get to go in to workout in their training facility, and bring Levi in to see him. Levi will smile and wave at anything, Trash cans and mannequins included. Well, he waves and smiles at every student we walk by, and I kid you not 99% of the time they are staring at their phones. It’s painful to watch, and I really hope he doesn’t stop trying to get a wave back.
My husband and I like to go for walks with our pup and Levi on the rare occasion the he gets home from work and it’s still light out. We’ve passed a few couples out walking too. I waved and smiled and said hi. No response. Blank stares. No acknowledgement of our presence. We looked at each other, perplexed. No we weren’t walking in matching togas and carrying bagpipes. That would be cool though.
I dunno, this kind of stuff happens. A lot. I’d list more examples, but you get the point. And I don’t want people thinking that I just run around taking a mental count of people who actually smile and wave these days. Or maybe I do.
I guess I am a bit sensitive when it comes to things like this.
It’s probably because I DO know everyone is hurting, or going through some sort of struggle, big or small, and the easiest thing to do is…smile or show some sort of basic human kindness. And it seems like more and more people are choosing to not interact with a stranger, even on the most basic of human competencies. Is it out of fear? Maybe. The media likes to highlight and praise the bad apples of this world. Is it out of laziness? It’s much easier to just stare at a screen. Is it out of discomfort? I mean, it cuts out any potential awkwardness to just press a like button or heart something. Are people too busy? Oh the thought of letting someone into my life. How can my planner fit it in.
Sorry, but I think those are lame excuses.
Maybe if we all become a little less wrapped up in our own worlds, and look up, reach out and show a basic courtesy to each other, we might feel a little bit better. Especially if you’re feeling good. Spread that spirit around like glitter.
Now, a few (different) examples.
I remember certain days I’d be out for a walk after a loooong day, and just had my headphones in, listening to music, totally crying, and wiping away tears. A few people still smiled at me and said hi, even in my apparently distraught state, and you know what? It helped.
Baristas. Baristas are pretty darn awesome. Watch them do their thing. I’m a fan. And they tend to caffeinate our souls as well. Sometimes I think it isn’t the coffee that makes coffee shop so popular, it’s the basic human connections that happen there.
This might be totally out of the blue but I read an article where they interviewed a homeless man about how he wished people would react when they saw him on the street asking for money. His number one response? Just make eye contact, smile, and acknowledge that you see me, I am a human and that I’m here, and alive.
You get the point.
I’m not talking about striking up a conversation, and making friends with everyone you pass while out and about. But My whole point of this post is this.
A smile, wave, or even a little nod can say a lot. Like, hey, I see you, you matter, I’m glad you’re here, it’s ok, or yeah, I feel ya, life is crazy.
…and who knows what a positive impact that can have.
So yeah. Just do it.
Be a smiling person.
Even for just a moment.