Now that I’m into the SOL groove, I think more in moments, about how I need to remember as much as I can so I can reconstruct them later. I am certainly more observant. I think I listen better because I am now attuned to what might make for a good slice. Today, an interaction that happens every morning has me thinking…
I’m a displaced Southerner. Originally from Kentucky, I’ve long lost my accent, but there are still particular ways of being–manners, if you will–that are ingrained permanently in my being.
Saying hello whenever I pass someone, particularly when we make eye contact, is one of those manners.
Boston, though, is a challenge. I have an easy smile: I’ll smile at anyone. It’s who I am. Usually, though, that smile is disarming, off-putting, confusing for Bostonians because they are so uncomfortable with smiles freely given. The frown? They’ve got that down, though.
And it’s not like that gray area of maybe-we-made-eye-contact-but-I’ll-pretend-we-didn’t-and-not-smile-at-her; nope. For the last two days, I’ve passed different people who have perfected the art of looking through people: one was a mom we see daily on our walk to the subway. She has two elementary-aged children. We walk right past them. We make eye contact. I smile. I say “Good morning.” She glares, tells the kids to come on. I sigh. Explain to E that sometimes people don’t speak but that’s okay. People still need to be spoken to, if only to be told something nice. It drives me nuts, though.
Believe me, I really want to swear or say something under my breath. I read something a while ago, however, that said that kids become who they see you being. I don’t want E to see me being a jerk, quite honestly. I repeat that advice over and over again to myself. I also know that, eventually, people often say hello back. There are a few people who we see every morning when we are walking across Harvard Yard. We started as passersby, but I think once or twice we made some incidental contact. My first reaction is to simply say “Hello.” Rinse. Repeat. Fast forward a few weeks later and my greeting finally got one in return. Now, it’s a habit. We greet each other in passing, some small moment of connection as we rush to our destinations.
However, I have witnessed a baby’s ability to soften even the hardest of Bostonians’ hearts. During our commute, E has a grand time watching other passengers. He stares at them as they read their newspapers, drink their coffee, chat with their friends. Once he fixes his gaze on someone he is particularly interested in, he stares at them (and I’m amazed that babies can hold such a steady gaze) until they look up from whatever they are doing only to lock eyes with a 9-month old. As soon as they look at him, he usually breaks into a huge grin and these random strangers meet his smile with ones of their own. Sometimes they even laugh. No one has ever not smiled back. Babies are magic.
That’s why I continue to say hello, to smile, to put some joy out there into the world. It comes back to us, eventually, in some form.