Is it my imagination, or are people just not as friendly as they used to be?
“You’re too sensitive,” my husband says, and I do admit there have been instances where that may have been the case. But, no. Not lately. It doesn’t upset me when people, strangers really, aren’t especially nice to me – it’s just something I’ve been noticing for a while.
When I say people, I don’t mean all people, of course. Not by a longshot. I come in contact with men, women, and children every single day who are pleasant and helpful and considerate – both folks I know and complete strangers, too. It’s the ones who wouldn’t smile at you if their life depended on it I’m talking about.
Maybe they’re having a bad day.
True, very true. Everybody has a bad day … bad week, even. Bad days come in all sorts – because you woke up late, because your head hurts, because you’re going through a personal crisis, your shoes are too tight, you’re worried about yourself or someone you care about, or they cancelled your favorite television show. Bad days aren’t illegal and they’re not entirely terrible. As an old saying goes, “You have to have a bad day every once in a while, otherwise you’ll never know what a good day feels like.”
But when every day is a bad day and there’s no good reason for it and you’re being rude to everyone around you … that’s just unfortunate. Smile, why don’t you?
I like to smile. It’s actually good for you. So says a 2010 Wayne State University research project that involved examining the baseball card photos of Major League players in 1952. The study found that the span of a player’s smile could actually predict the span of his life. Players who didn’t smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, while players with beaming smiles lived an average of 79.9 years. Interesting.
“Do we know them?” my daughter asked as we drove down the street and I throw my hand up to wave at an approaching car. No. I don’t know them. I’m just being friendly.
“How do you know you’re not waving at a murderer or equally horrible person?” my son asked oh so long ago. Well, I’d never thought of that. Hopefully, I hadn’t, but if I had been friendly to a murderer or equally horrible person, maybe that one ounce of friendliness was enough to make them change their ways.
Give me a break … at least it sounded good when I told him that.
What I’ve noticed lately is that more and more people don’t make the effort to smile or speak or help someone out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. More and more don’t say please or thank you. And what’s even sadder is that they’re not teaching their children to be gracious and kind, either. I learned once from someone not to always assume “treat someone the way you would like to be treated” is necessarily a good thing.
“I do live by that rule,” a man told us. “I’m not friendly to anyone because I don’t give a rat’s behind if they’re friendly to me or not. I don’t particularly like nice people. They’re obnoxious.”
I told him that was sad, but what I really wanted to do was suggest he go live in a trash can on Sesame Street.
Maybe it is just my imagination. Maybe people are just as friendly and nice as ever. Maybe I’m just living in a Pollyanna world where I think everyone has to smile and be gracious to everyone all the time, and that’s never going to happen. Maybe I’m being too sensitive. Maybe my shoes are too tight.
Or maybe I think making an extra effort to be friendly to the people you come in contact with – whether they’re friendly back or not – just might make a huge difference in someone’s day.
That, I know, is not just my imagination.
Email columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.