It seems in American culture today that simple friendliness and neighborliness have just about disappeared.
I noticed in myself a tendency to walk through life minimizing my contact with other human beings. Now this can partly be put down to my innate shyness, but I think that there is more to it than that. Even people who are quite extroverted and gregarious don’t seem to offer friendly greetings to unknown passersby anymore.
I’ve been making an effort lately not to wrap myself in my own world and problems, but instead to open my heart and mind to even casual meetings. Who knows when a casual meeting may turn into a divine appointment. Now I’ve been building all of this up as if it were some deep philosophical/internal shift, but all I’m really talking about doing is saying “Hi,” “Good morning,” “How’s it going?” “Evenin'” etc. to people I come into contact to, even if I don’t know them (yet).
What’s really astonishing is the range of responses to this type of greeting. Most people smile, do nothing, or increase their pace, but I’ve had a few shoot me dirty looks, a few respond in kind, and a few who have seen that as an opportunity to start a conversation. In that final case, I try to make time to talk for a little while even if I’m in a hurry… I don’t always share the gospel as a part of every encounter, but I have at least a few times in the last few weeks.
Recently, I was dropping some clothes off for wash-n-fold service at a local laundromat. On my way in I passed two young ladies who had several (10 or more) trash bags of laundry stacked around their trunk. After I had set my laundry down by the front counter, I came back just as they had gotten the last bag out of their trunk and onto the sidewalk. I asked if I could carry some of the bags in for them. They were astonished. They agreed, and I loaded up the rest of the bags in both hands and carried them in. It took me no time at all really, but it made a serious impression on them. It kind of saddened me that such a simple, normal, mannerly action would be so astonishing, but it did leave me strongly impressed with the witness opportunity that even the smallest act of kindness can open up for us.