“Hurry up,” an agitated man in the cafeteria checkout line kept mumbling.
My friend Bob, a very gentle soul, turned to him and said, “Take it easy. You’ll live longer.”
I thought they were friends and that this was friendly banter. Instead, the man followed him into the parking lot and wanted to fight.
“Why have we become so mean?” I wondered.
This topic is discussed frequently in the mainstream media and on social media. Numerous reasons are put forward.
Take your pick on the causes: the pandemic, wearing a mask, isolation, loss of paychecks, loss of identity, loss of control, conspiracy theories, the list could go on.
I readily admit that I do not know precisely what is contributing to this mean behavior; however, I do know how to lessen the severity of the problem and return us to our more genial demeanor.
The solution is simple, and everyone can participate.
Smile at people and speak to them in a friendly manner. If you are not ready to practice both, then just smile at those you meet.
My late wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She no longer could speak, but her smile was enough to carry me through the darkest day.
Yes, I missed her cheerful words, but her smile lit my world. It drove the dark clouds away and put me in a much better place.
Try it. You have nothing to lose. A smile has wonderful powers. It can drive the blues away and sweeten the sourest disposition.
When you are ready, take the next step. Add a simple greeting. “Hello. I’m glad to see you,” or “How have you been?” or, “Hi, my name is…”
When I was the CEO of a non-profit agency, the president of the board of directors endeared himself to everyone. He never made you fumble for his name. “Hello, I’m John Smith,” he greeted you with an outstretched hand and a smile.
In many Christian churches, the service includes passing the peace. Other congregations practice extending the right hand of fellowship.
Both practices are rooted in Scripture. Both convey a message of peace and welcome. A handshake carries the same message.
The Say Something Nice Day (June 1) and Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June) movements share the same motives to break down barriers and create a friendlier environment.
I like to speak to everyone I encounter. My children, when they became teenagers, were embarrassed by my behavior. They chastised me, “Daddy, do you know that person? Then, why did you speak to them?”
My answer, “Why not? Why not acknowledge another human being?”
Every person we meet is struggling with something. We do not know the anguish of the people we pass.
Some are suffering from deep wounds or are enduring hurts from long ago. Some have just lost a job or a spouse.
The simple action of a smile or greeting can change their day. As my mother often said, “Son, be nice.”
It is within our power to change things one interaction at a time. We can behave in such a way that others want to be around us.
No sermon is required. Our behavior is sermon enough.
We may not always know the right words to say or be in the mood to speak to others. If this is the case, just smile.
There may be a few who will ignore or ridicule you but smile anyway.
A member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, he is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.