This morning, after dropping my twins off at the babysitter’s, I was walking to my car when a neighbor was walking past with his dog. He was frowning and didn’t look very happy to be out and about at 7am. He glanced over at me and I greeted him with a smile and a bright, “Good morning!” I didn’t think much of it, as it’s a pretty standard procedure for me to greet anyone I see. As I pulled out of the driveway and went along my way, I had to drive past the man. This time, I noticed he was smiling from ear to year. A few moments before that, he had looked miserable. Had my smile and words changed his perspective?
I attended a small college of national distinction in the hills of West Virginia- Bethany. What struck me about Bethany when I toured as a high school senior was that everyone seemed so happy. Professors welcomed us into their classes to show us experiments they were working on (I still remember the fruit flies and how the professor explained their breeding habits although I have long forgotten his name). Students smiled and said hello as we passed through the corridors of Old Main. Everyone made eye contact and greeted you with a smile as you passed. I actually wondered out loud if they had placed these people just for the tour, but our guide assured me that was just how people acted in that cheery little town. People were just generally nice and kind. Although this wasn’t my only reason for choosing to attend Bethany College, it did influence my decision. Bethany’s outlook on strangers also changed the way I went about my day for the rest of my life.
I always say hello and good morning when I pass colleagues in the halls. It’s funny to me how many people will put their head down and not acknowledge someone passing just feet away from them. I’m as guilty as anyone for getting caught up in my own troubles and problems, but sometimes one little interaction can change your whole perspective. If I’m having a rough morning, a bright greeting from a colleague may change my mood and leave me walking away with a smile. It’s only fair that I give that back whenever I can.
I try to greet as many of my students as I can by name in the hallways with a hello, a smile, and a question about how their English class is going this semester. Some of my students seem mortified that their teacher spoke to them in front of friends, but most leave walking away with a big smile. I hope they pass that smile and kindness on to someone else as they go. I really believe that a kind word can change a day for the better, like a harsh word can send a day into a downward spiral. I believe niceness matters.
I really have no idea if it was my words that perked the man up this morning, or if he was just amused by something his dog did. But it really made me remember that a simple greeting and a smile can change a person’s world.