There are some traits you pick up from you parents that you carry with you throughout your life. One that I am incredibly grateful stuck with me came from my father.
I remember going with him places as a little girl and thinking that he knew everyone. I thought this because, well, he spoke with almost everyone around us. It didn't matter if he was at a gas station or the feed shop or the bank, my dad was always greeting someone.
I was in awe that my dad knew SO many people. How did he do it?
As I grew older, I realized that he didn't really "know" all of these people. He knew some of them, of course. My father knows a great deal of people where we live. He's a popular dude.
Still, some of the people he chatted up were not friends or coworkers or even acquaintances—my dad was, in fact, talking to strangers.
At first, I was confused by this. Why in the world would you say "hello" to someone that you don't even know?
Eventually, I decided to express this confusion to him.
I asked him why he chose to talk to people that he did not know. His answer was simple: Why not?
I proceeded to explain to him that sometimes people do not respond and even give him strange looks for speaking to them. I mean, wasn't he embarrassed when this happened?
My dad just laughed and said something like this to me:
If they don't say anything back, then that's not my problem. Sometimes people aren't going to wish you a good day back and sometimes people are going to think you're a little crazy for saying it to them. What's the worst thing that can happen? They don't say anything back? That's okay. It's still a good thing to do. Some people do say it back and, sometimes, you end up meeting someone you wouldn't have if you didn't say anything at all. That's why I do it.
Yep. That's my pops. He wasn't doing it for them—he was doing it for himself.
One thing that stuck with me from that was the worst thing that can happen is they don't say anything back part. As a young girl, that did sound like the worst thing. Who wants to willingly be made felt silly like that?
Regardless, I decided to adopt his way and try it out for myself.
Fast forward to present time, I am definitely my father's daughter. I am now the person who will chat up the grocery clerk and say hello to strangers that I pass. Especially women!
I love smiling and greeting the women I pass in my daily life. This is mostly because they least expect it from me. Unfortunately, we have a terrible reputation for being mean to each other and envying one another.
I hope to help change that in any way I can—even if it is with something as small as wishing them a good morning.
Recently, I've been taking morning walks. (I know, I know. I'm talking about walking again, but hang in here with me. I've got a point—promise!) These walks are prime time for wishing strangers a good morning and that's one of my favorite things about them.
Every time I walk, I make it my personal mission to wish everyone I pass a good morning. I say good morning to the jogging ladies, the running men, the kids waiting for the school bus, the landscapers, the construction workers—everyone.
Some say it back, some don't, and some just look at me like the crazy white girl that I am. Either way, with a big smile, I still say it.
There is one particular man that never says it back. I see him pretty frequently and, of course, always wish him a good morning. I've been trying to crack him for two months now. This guy is NOT having it.
A couple of weeks ago on my walk, I was having a particularly low return ratio on my "good morning" mission. I was 0 for 3 and about to approach Mr. Grumpy Guts himself.
I would love for this to the part of the story where I tell you that he finally said it back and gave me a hug and told me his life story and became my new grandpa, but this isn't a movie. This is life. And he slapped me with a solid 0 for 4 without blinking.
Thanks a lot, Gramps.
I have to admit: It got me a little down.
Actually, I was pissed! What is wrong with people? Have we all become so disconnected as a race that we can't even tolerate a well-meaning greeting from a stranger?
What a bunch of shit.
I decided I was done for the day. The next person I saw was going to get the cold morning shoulder from me. I was OVER IT.
Then the next person I was to pass came into view. She was a lovely looking woman that seemed to be on a morning jog as well.
I tried to stick to my guns. I really did. But, I couldn't help it. I dug deep inside of myself, found a toothy grin, and wished her a good morning as she approached.
Guess what? She said it back AND smiled! Hallelujah! It made my day.
Later that week, I was sitting with my sister when she received a Facebook message from someone that I did not know. Her friend asked her if I lived around so-and-so and so-and-so. She replied that I did.
Then her friend sent this:
I was just wondering because I read her blog post that talked about how she started walking. Then the other day I went out for a jog and passed this friendly gorgeous face that said good morning to me. I was shocked because nobody ever talks when I go by them, even if I do say hello. She was so full of happiness and I immediately thought it was her even though I have never met her.
Oh. My. Tears!
They filled my eyes immediately. This person had no idea how much that meant to me.
My sister showed me her picture and guess what? She was the woman from that day! She was the one that I pushed through my own frustrations for. The one who made my day by returning the greeting. AND she read my blog?
My heart was full.
We ended up becoming facebook friends. She is even more lovely of a person than I initially expected. My dad was right. It was totally worth the risk of getting rejected again that day.
Isn't it always worth the risk though?
I'm not just talking about speaking to strangers. I am talking about putting ourselves "out there" in general.
So many times we hold ourselves back from taking risks because we are terrified of the "what ifs" in life.
What if I ask for it and they say no? What if I apply for that job and I don't get it? What if I show up to that class and I am the worst one in it? What if I tell them I love them and they don't say it back?
I have another question: What happens if we give into our fear of these answers?
You know what will happen: Nothing will change. Sounds thrilling!
Say it. Do it. Ask for it. Offer it.
Whatever "it" is, don't give it the answer that is not yours to give in the first place. It might be what we think, but there's also a chance it might not. It's not our choice to make.
When we choose to risk, we choose to grow.
We have to take those chances. It may take a few times, but someone will eventually need what you are also looking for.
Even if it is just a kind smile and simple "Good morning." It makes a difference. At least I know it did for me.