Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I've noticed something about people over the last thirty years or so: they're not very nice and becoming even less so!
I'm not talking about during extraordinary times or in times of emergency or tragedy. No, I mean on your average day in the good old USA people seem to be less and less considerate of each other. I don't even think it's the majority of people, but it does seem to be many folks.
I see it often when I'm driving where other motorists, a whole column of them, won't let another driver merge, or when I do let someone into my lane and they fail to give the obligatory "thank you wave". Or when a driver feels too important to sit in the traffic jam like the rest of us and decides to use the shoulder as his own personal driving lane, inevitably delaying our drive home even longer when he has to re-enter! My particular favorite is when people are crossing the street and the traffic light changes but they don't even seem to make an effort to hurry. I swear it's almost as if some people slow down and throw a look at you that says: "so, what are you gonna do? Run me over?" I almost never see a man relinquish his seat to a woman on a crowded bus or train anymore and so few people ever say "thank you" when you hold a door for them. Maybe it's just where I live? I still see people throwing trash on the ground too. Not only gum wrappers but entire fast food meal packaging! I thought we knew better by now. With the internet and social networks so prevalent bullying and online aggression seems to be at an all time high. And from the grocery store to the poker tables I hear people say things to others that, in the past, would be cause for a duel!
I'm writing this on September 12th, 2011 which is ten years and one day after the horrific tragedy that occurred in America. I remember a lot of things about that day like it was yesterday! I wasn't in New York City or Washington D.C. but I saw something in the way we all treated each other even if we were hundreds or thousands of miles removed from the epicenters of that day: we were all nice to each other. Strangers talked like they knew each other for years. People held doors and said "thank you" - and meant it! Those down on their luck were given a little extra generosity and not a single judgement was made aloud. It was as if we were all a part of the same family: the human family. This kindness continued for several days. But things "go back to normal" eventually and we turn inward. We become concerned with "número uno" and we trade in our consideration for others for the self-centered attitude.
I know I'm guilty of some of these and other things and I'm sure some of you are as well. I think some of our behavior is learned and some is instinctual. But I know we can all become a bit nicer to each other. God knows our society can use it right about now. So, just smile at that person in line at the store, call someone you haven't talked to in a while and ask how they are doing. Check with a neighbor and see if they need help with anything. Give the panhandler some change maybe he really does need it.
We can't pass laws to regulate people to be considerate, generous or respectful of others. It must come from within each of us. And the solution is easy. Most of the world's problems can be solved if we all live by two simple words: be nice!