I think it is human nature to be considerate. You only need to look at a tragedy to see people showing their best sides, helping others without even thinking about it. Goodness is something that is instilled in our essence, in our being.
Taking into account the busyness of every day life, human weakness, greed and selfishness, these values get lost and buried though at times, struggling to be seen on the surface.
Our society now moves in such a way that we have lowered our expectations and settled for less. There was a long era in history where customers, the people contributing to the staff incomes, were not only known by their first names but were also treated with respect. There was also a time when neighbours helped each other out and were not afraid to say hello and to get to know each other.
Somewhere along the way life also became faster. The population continues to increase and local is no longer local. No longer do a couple of polite people check your oil and water when you fill up your car. No longer does a smiling person pack your groceries and wish you a happy day. No longer can you trust the word of companies whose services you pay for.
Instead we speak to machines first to hopefully get through to an actual person when dealing with large organisations. We hear the words ‘road rage’ more and more often, not questioning its absurdity. Many shop assistants carry on chatting to each other, no longer acknowledging the customer unless the customer speaks first. Sadly, those in public roles do not often realise the power of their role and their ability to lift someone’s day, simply by sharing a little friendly service and politeness.
But I never lose hope. I think that we will eventually turn things around, even if in spite of ourselves. It needs to be done individually though. And it starts with every one of us. The changes come by us all making a conscious choice to not only exist in the world, but to add good will to it.
I am not suggesting we all turn into Amelie, from that wonderful French film, though of course that would be a beautiful thing indeed. (Can you imagine what a joyful place it would be if that were the case?!)
But there is plenty we can do in each of our own lives. Sometimes it is the simplest things that can change someone’s day.
Many years ago I had just moved to London, after living elsewhere in Europe for a while. I was very alone in the big city, but I loved the melting pot of cultures and the energy of the place. It was my first day and while I felt a long way from friends, I was still excited. As the day unfolded though, my excitement gave way to exhaustion then to loneliness. I wandered around until my feet could carry me no further, then sat watching it all go by for a while. As I did so, a warm and friendly smile was bestowed upon me. It was the briefest moment, a mere few seconds from a goodhearted person as he rushed by.
Yet it shifted me completely. No longer did I feel alone and I enjoyed the rest of my day with a peaceful heart. That moment still brings me warm memories. Sure, we all smile at strangers sometimes….I hope so anyway. I know I do and others do to me. It is a beautiful thing. But when we give those smiles, we don’t always know their value. That simple smile one London day carried me much further than that lovely man will ever know. (That very smile even gained a mention in my song Words, from my album Sun Showers).
So despite the busyness of life at times, none of us is too busy to be polite or to share a little kindness or a smile. While we may not necessarily share the same values or beliefs as others in our human family, we can still add goodwill to the world we all live in, through courtesy and politeness.
Giving without expectations of return, helping someone out in simple ways, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment all add healthy value to our human existence. Trying to see the world through the eyes of others will add a lot of empathy and understanding. These values seem to have been somewhat lost along the way.
There are many things we could complain about, as there is much injustice and heartache in the world that we have created. And there are plenty of people who have nothing but negative opinions to share. It doesn’t help the world we live in to contribute to that side of things though.
Simply choose to get back to positive things, including good old fashion manners and treating others in a respectful and warm hearted way. It is not hard.
If a stranger doesn’t return your smile, don’t let that stop you sharing one with someone else. You can’t know why they didn’t return the smile and you don’t need to. Your smile may still help them enormously, even if they cannot respond in a way that you expected.
Please. Be polite and be compassionate towards human weakness. None of us are perfect. And especially, take the time to remember what kindness and good manners really are. No one is too busy to share these things.
The world is still a beautiful place and it needs all of us to work together to bring things back into a healthy way.
A smile to a stranger won’t hurt anyone.
And you never know, you may just get one back.