“Mornin’!” How often do you, if ever, pass by someone on the street, look them in the eye, smile and offer a friendly greeting? It seems lately that we are spending more time with our eyes cast downward as we walk than looking up at what’s in front of us.
All around us, politicians, lobbyists, protestors, and the news, are all-too-eager to point out our differences instead of our commonalities. Suddenly, we are all strangers deserving to be looked upon with suspicion. We don’t like looking someone in the eye anymore, just in case we see something we might not agree with. It may be true, or it may just be in our imagination, but by giving credence to those fears, we start making them true.
I was a volunteer at the Sydney Writers’ Festival earlier this year. During one of my shifts, I was sent down to the shuttle bus stop to assist festival-goers with bus tickets or act as a walking information booth. While I was standing alone at that cold bus stop, I would greet passersby with a smile and a friendly “good morning”. On many occasions, people were caught by surprise that a complete stranger would talk to them. Sometimes, they would return my smile and continue on their merry way. Other times, they would just look annoyingly back at me, as if I dared to interrupt whatever they were daydreaming of.
Well, I think we all need to take some time to look up at the big, wide world ahead of us. Make eye contact. Say “hello” or “good morning” to all the strangers you pass by in the morning on the way to work. Maybe give you bus driver a smile next time you get on, instead of just rushing on. Believe me, if your cheeks start to hurt from too much smiling, it is a good thing. Give it a try. Because friendliness to strangers is not a crime. Don’t let it become one.