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Offering a Simple Smile
When I first started working out at our fitness facility, I focused on my mission—getting in, doing my stuff and getting out. I’ve never been crazy about fitness, but as I’ve gotten older, I now realize that if I want to maintain my health and mobility, I’ve got to do it.
I also began to understand that the time I spent at the fitness center would be much more pleasant if I “got outside myself” and realized that other people, for their own reasons, were there with me. And then I remembered my Uncle Al who was a fan of exercise, and he was always friendly to everyone, even if they didn’t reciprocate. He had a sweet demeanor and always greeted people with enthusiasm and kindness.
I decided I wanted to be like him. I decided that everyone would benefit from a warm greeting and smile, whether they wanted to reciprocate or not.
There are still a few people who respond to me reluctantly, although almost everyone reacts. When I happen to be on the treadmill next to the guy with a moustache and curly gray hair and I call out “good morning,” he mumbles the same back to me, but doesn’t make eye contact. That’s okay. I hope that my greeting gave him some positive energy. There’s the little black lady who asked if I was okay when she greeted me first and I didn’t respond! I assured her that I hadn’t heard her and I would always respond if she spoke first.
Most people are getting accustomed to my friendly gesture.
There’s Laurence Fishburne (he looks just like him and told me others have said so, too, although this LF is brawnier), who doesn’t have Laurence’s voice; after greeting him a few times, he stopped to talk to me one day about exercise. There’s the short, stocky guy, who now catches my eye and smiles and greets me first. There’s the woman who is in great shape and always greets me enthusiastically. There’s the fellow with white, straight hair who always meets my grin with his own. And there are many more people who return my smile and greeting, because . . . well, I’m not sure why, but we all seem to enjoy that moment of being recognized, blessed with a moment of kind-heartedness and caring.
* * * *
I think, more than ever before, people are becoming accustomed to being distant and isolated. Moving beyond that mindset becomes harder and harder. Even though most people don’t wear masks at the fitness center, they seem to have substituted them with a sense of distance and resignation. Perhaps they let their minds drift to more pleasant and satisfying times. Maybe they’re just putting together a list of errands to run later. But the idea of connecting for many of them seems foreign and difficult.
So, I’d like to think when I greet people and smile, those barriers and hardened connections loosen just a bit. A tiny recollection about the value of relationships is generated. A moment of recognition buds, then blooms, and we can remember that we are meant to be linked and be together.
And those of us who initiate those moments benefit most of all.
Published in Culture
When we moved to East Tennessee from California the first thing we noticed was that everyone greeted you. It’s just how it is here. And if you’re going to fit in you better start a greet’n. I am pleased to do so.
My kind of people!!
I have found this to be true when I come in early to work at the high school and there are just a few kids around. They have tendency to pretend you aren’t there, but if I get a glance I definitely give them a good morning. Even the ones who seem to be the most tightly compressed appear to relax a bit and will respond. Human contact, even at superficial levels, benefits all.
That’s wonderful, Juliana. It seems like high school kids, who can feel especially isolated, would benefit greatly.
I think it is either an age thing or that being retired means that I have more time, but I try to interact with those like the clerks at the grocery store (I WILL NOT check my own stuff and wait for the one person to come OK the beer). If the name on the name tag (“Humna” ) is at all unusual, I ask what it means (“Blessed”) and we have a conversation about that.
Also, when I get the automatic “Have a nice day”, I try to raise the comment with “Have a great week!” (For Humna, its have a “blessed day”)
I guess its working – the lady at the pharmacy and another at the carry-out we use have taken to calling me “Honey”.
One of my favorite places, Bermuda, takes this very seriously. Not greeting someone is a major breach of etiquette. Parents teach their children to be polite. It’s such a thing it has become a meme.
I make sure I make eye contact with the busy cashier at the grocery store. I think that reinforces the sincerity in your voice. I remember I was in line behind some
idiotman at the grocery store. The youngish female cashier looked pretty harried and he stated ‘oh, must be one of those female days.’ She was speechless (as was I) and I wish I had had the courage to slap him in the face. He quickly took stock of our demeanor, paid for his groceries and beat it out of there. All I said to her was ‘rough day?’ She looked like she was about to cry, but said she had already been there ten hours and was just really tired. I offered some sympathy, but it’s hard to erase rude, crude, and stupid.
Susan, I absolutely love this. I am making a conscious effort to act the same way. It takes so little effort to be friendly and positive. And it makes me feel better to do it. What a payoff from making someone smile or laugh! There is too little joy in the world. Let’s be bringers of joy!
Welcome to the club!