Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"...um...good morning!"

My morning destination
I start my day each morning with a walk.  Okay, that is not absolutely true, my day actually begins with stumbling blindly, because I always forget to put my glasses on, into the kitchen to feed my cat masters followed by more fumbling around to make coffee.  After I have my cup of coffee I get dressed and go for a walk down to the ocean.  This can happen anywhere from 6:30 to 8:00 depending mostly upon whether or not I crawl back into bed after feeding the cats.

Whatever time of the morning I end up leaving the house, I always encounter other people as I make my way to the seaside.  Some are exercising, many are walking their dogs, others are on their way to work.  Until a few days ago I passed by all of these people without making eye contact, without smiling or saying hello.  In fact other than not bumping into the other person, we passed each other on the street with virtually no acknowledgement that we have even noticed one another.  

A few days  ago, as I was out for my walk,  an older gentleman nodded at me and said, "Good morning," as we passed each other on the sidewalk.  I mumbled some sort of response that vaguely sounded like, "Good morning," and went on my way.  A few moments later I thought to myself how nice it was to actually have someone notice my existence.  I didn't know him and he didn't know me, and he was likely just being polite but still, it made me feel some brief connection to him as a fellow human being.  So I decided that the next day on my walk I would say, "Good morning" to everyone I encountered.   I had no idea how difficult it would turn out to be. 

I wasn't worried about how others might respond.  I mean, it took me a split second to realize that someone had said, "Good morning," to me.  I realized how uncommon it was and so I was not going to take it personally if someone did not respond back or if they did belatedly.  No, the problem I encountered in my little experiment was me. 

At first I worried about when to actually say it.  Do I do it while someone is still a few feet in front of me so they have time to respond?  Do I wait until they are passing me on the sidewalk?  Do I look them in the eye? Should I smile?  I was so anxious about it that I passed at least a half dozen people before I told myself to stop worrying about it and just do it.  At that point I was quite near the end of my walk and began to despair that my experiment would be a total failure because I'd never work up the courage to do it.  Finally, as I rounded a corner one block away from my apartment I saw a young woman walking towards me.  My hearth was pounding and I think my palms may have been a bit sweaty.  I quietly cleared by throat and...

"Good morning," I said as she neared.  She smiled at me and replied, "Oh.  Good morning."

As she continued on her way and I on mine a huge smile came across my lips.  One of those big cheek lifting sort of grins that I get when I successfully do something that makes me anxious or a little afraid.  In fact I was smiling so big and feeling so darn good about myself I nearly missed chance number two as I waited to cross the street and man with a briefcase walked past me.  

"Good morning," I said.  He looked back over his shoulder and waved, "Good morning."

I couldn't believe it! I'd done it twice.  I skipped across the street - that's right, 42 year old me was skipping across the street because she'd managed to say, "good morning," to two total strangers.  

The next day I decided to do it again.  I was still a bit nervous so one or two folks walked by me before I worked up the courage to say, "Good morning," to a pair of folks waiting for the bus. They both replied with the same back to me.  In fact, with the exception of a young man wearing ear-buds who likely did not hear me, every person I wished a good morning to replied with the same.  

I could likely write much more about how acknowledging our fellow human beings can help build community or  how I hoped it made them feel good and brightened their day a bit, but while both of these things are ultimately true, my original motivation for doing this was a bit of a selfish one.  I really just wanted to do it because I wondered if I could and I wondered what would happen if I did.  My reason for continuing to do it is a bit of a selfish one too, it feels good.  

And so I will continue.  And yes, maybe one day it will even become a habit.  And maybe one day someone else who I said, "Good morning," to will decide they want to do the same and who knows, maybe eventually we will all walk around acknowledging the existence of our fellow humans.  Gosh darn it! This could change the world!  We might actually start to get along!  Heck, we might even end up with world peace all because early one morning a man said, "Good morning," to a one slightly bleary eyed woman he passed by on the street...

...it could happen!

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