440 – Epilogue: 2



Warning: Touchy-feely blog post ahead. You have been warned.

At the risk of sounding like a soft-headed lefty, I thought that I might pass along an observance I have been building recently. I have often felt that human beings are inherently bad, or stupid, or even simply selfish. I believe that this is true. But I also believe that these same humans are inherently good, and smart, and selfless. Maybe it just depends on what time of day you catch a person, or what kind of night he had the day before. Maybe she’s hungry, or he just had a great cup of coffee. Whatever it is, I have discovered that I feel a certain… responsibility to do what I can to affect the people with whom I come into contact for the better.

Now obviously, there is only so much a random encounter can do, and I’m not talking about following someone home from the grocery store to paint their fence or give their dog a bath, but smaller, easier ways to influence people’s moods and give them a happier day, even if it’s just a by the tiniest bit.

When I’m out and about, and someone I don’t even know takes the effort to say “hi,” I feel better. If three people do it, I’m on top of the world. I’ll be thinking about it all day. And it doesn’t take much, just a smile, maybe a nod. Acknowledgment. Positivity. Validation. In an effortless way, it says, “I see you. You’re just as good as anyone else here. You’re not alone.”Β 

Now I’m not suggesting that running around saying “howdy” to everyone you see is going to end the world’s violence or solve any major political or economic crises… but does it really have to do that to be worthwhile? Wouldn’t it be enough to think you might have brightened someone’s life just a bit? Some stranger who’s now going to think about how three people at the lifted him out of his funk and now he’s going to be inexplicably nice to the next person he comes across?

As an experiment, try to notice when someone you don’t know is good to you. It doesn’t have to be much, just a little nicer than they needed to be. Think about how it makes you feel and consider, wouldn’t you like to be like that guy?

9 Responses to 440 – Epilogue: 2

  1. This is the reason I prefer a good portion of the Southern U.S.A. as opposed to the North East (where I currently live). People always take the time to be polite and rarely will anyone make eye contact with you without saying hello.

    Not saying everyone in the NE isn’t like that, but there is a palpable feel of comfort when the majority of people are like that.

  2. Living in a fairly major urban centre as I do I have to warn that this can be a very dangerous thing to do where I live. Our streets are littered with people who are victims of their own and others’ bad judgement: Homeless, drug addicts, scam artists, and jerks, anger-management-failures and a wide variety of kinds of perv present too much of a threat for most sane people to really do this unreservedly. Doing so in a small office or your local coffee shop generally is a different thing but oy….

  3. @JackR: Funny how different people’s experiences can be. The year I lived in the south (NOLA, specifically, but the same things happened in every state I hit on my way home to MD, too), I had trouble getting the people who were -supposed- to notice me and be at least vaguely polite to even look at me. The ones who did, generally commented that I looked like I didn’t belong down there and should go back north. Now, I’m not saying it was everyone. It wasn’t, not by any stretch. But it -was- unfortunately the majority.

    @Kevin: I think the assumption that people are basically good or basically bad is a bit off. I suspect that it’s more like people are basically lazy. Hear me out, though, it’s not a criticism. It’s an acknowledgement of evolutionarily ordained instincts. People will do whatever requires the least effort on their parts. If it takes less effort to steal a loaf of bread than to purchase it, then they will, most often. If it takes less effort to buy the bread, they’ll do that instead. In general, though, counterintuitive though it may seem at first, it’s usually going to require less effort to follow society’s rules than to break them. Mental and emotional stress are energy intensive; it’s a whole lot of work to worry about whether your going to get caught doing something wrong, usually much more work than doing things the acceptable way in the first place. People tell the truth more often than not because it’s too much work to keep straight who they told which lies to and who’s got which details. When people do lie, it’s because they expect the truth to lead to much more work and/or stress.
    Conservation of energy and resources at its finest. πŸ™‚

  4. Perfectly agreed about laziness, we share the same theory.

    OTOH, I work just as kevin on this: A few smiles and friendly faces and I’m high, but I can easily go down πŸ™

  5. I had a relationship with a girl that was all about the lies. I was in a constant state of heightened anxiety over what she knew or didn’t know and even more to the point, whether or not she would still care for me if she knew all of my truths.

    One of, if not the biggest reason I love Lena so very much is that we are totally honest with one another. Having been on both sides of that divide I can assert with some authority just how liberating it is to know that there is at least one person in the world who totally understands you, knows all your dirty and embarrassing secrets, and loves you anyway.

    “The truth will set you free” isn’t just a slogan. It’s the truth.

  6. “One act of random kindness at a time.” So true. I’ve heard that it takes 15 positive things to balance out a SINGLE BAD THING in most people’s minds. It’d be great to be one in 15 trying to brighten the day, don’tcha think?

    I read a story once on how this family was staying in a hotel on a snowy, stormy Saturday and planned to go to Church at 9 the next morning.

    Nobody set the alarm.

    So, during this mad dash to get ready and leave and POSSIBLY make it to church, (during witch everyone lost their temper) the father looked out the window as he waited for the bathroom. And what does he see in the snow but a total stranger going down the line of cars and wiping all the windows on them~when he has done them all, he goes BACK INSIDE the hotel. None of the cars are his. It was just a random guy who was trying to help everyone else out.

    It’s one of my favorites. Just thought I’d share.


  7. My dad used to be of the mind to help anyone he came across who was in need. We gave food to a family we ran across at a rest-stop who was living out of their car one time, not because they asked but because as my dad put it “He’d been there.” He said he’d been through some tough times and people helped him out when he needed it, so why not return the favor. Picked up hitchhikers in the rain, helped change a lady’s tire on the side of the road, all that stuff. Cause “He’d been there.” Even though my dad was a bit of a douche most of the time, I always respected him for that.

  8. @Kira
    Unfortunately, the cynics among us would assume he was looking for stuff he could take. Clean the windows, check the locks, see if anything good is left sitting inside the car, move on. That may sound awful, but I’ve had it happen to me – right in my own driveway/neighborhood.


  9. @ Kroneg
    I know. And I don’t really know what to say to that, actually, other than it happened to my cousins one Christmas…someone stole all of their wrapped presents out of their car, which was parked outside their house. Jerks. Anyway, let’s just say I don’t think that this guy was.

    In fact, I’m positive.

    Live and learn, huh? πŸ˜€