Someone told me once that if you live in a big city, when you’re walking down the street don’t look people in the eye. I always thought that strange until I happened to be walking the streets of Manhattan last fall. I started watching people to see how they acted. Most of them were in a hurry. Many of them never lifted their eyes at all. Tourists were easy to spot; they were looking up or looking lost. What is it about the pace of life that we’re too busy or we don’t want to be bothered? Is it a lack of common courtesy? Is it fear? Is it self-absorption? Is it self-defense?
I tried an experiment at grocery stores, restaurants, and other places where I encountered service staff. Looking the person in the eye, I smiled and asked them how their day was going. Almost without exception, I got a smile in return and better attention. I think most people want to see smiles and hear kind words. I believe the Golden Rule works. When you treat people like you want to be treated, you get a better response … most of the time!
Treating people with dignity and courtesy opens all kinds of doors. You may find a kindred spirit. You may find a friend.
A little girl’s family had rented a beach house for a week. One afternoon she was outside playing in the sand, when she happened to look up and see an elderly gentleman walk slowly by. He looked lost in thought as he strolled by. Something drew her to him. He looked like someone who needed somebody to talk to.
She caught up to him and asked if she could walk with him awhile. He agreed. Soon they were lost in conversation. The stately gentleman and the little girl talked about a number of topics as the sun began to sink. As they returned to the beach house, the old man said to her, “If your mother asks where you have been, just tell her that you have been visiting with Oliver Wendell Holmes.”
“Okay,” she responded as she turned to go. Then she stopped, “If your mother asks where you have been, just tell her you’ve been talking to Mary Susanna Brown.”
What would a little girl and a Supreme Court Justice have to talk about? It’s amazing what happens when people realize how much they have in common. If we could focus on how much we are alike than how much we are different, we just might have a warmer world to live in.