I was recently in San Francisco and was impressed by how friendly the people were. It seemed like wherever we went, people were warm and helpful. Looking a little bit lost in Golden Gate Park, a lady stopped and asked if we needed any help. We went to a Giants game and all the staff appeared friendly. This was not the obligatory, dead-panned, “thanks for coming.” This was look you in the eye, smile and say, “thanks for coming!” After the game started a lady two seats down handed my wife the “Batting Stance Guy” book and asked, “would you like a baseball book?” Of course I would like a baseball book!! (As an aside, I had the opportunity to see The Batting Stance Guy live and in-person in Cincinnati last year. So this was double cool for me.
Now I am back home in the Midwest where we assume that people are friendly. However, I find when I jog through my comfortable middle class neighborhood I get ignored by about half of the people I see. I try to always look up prepared to say “hi” to everyone I see. However, some don’t look up, some turn to the person they are walking with and some who are walking a dog, look down and talk to the dog as I pass. The exception is joggers, it seems like a fellow jogger will always look up and acknowledge me. I think that is because if you have ever trained for a long distance race, you have probably spent a lot of time outside, running alone and the brief distraction from putting one foot in front of the other by saying “hello” is always welcome.
I do not live in a crowded, ultra-busy neighborhood, But when I think about it, the folks I do not know personally do appear very friendly. I remembered something one of my favorite college professors, Dr. Marc Lovelace, who taught history at Stetson University said once in class. Stetson, where I started my college education, was a small residential campus where you may not have known everyone, but just about every face was familiar. In class Dr, Lovelace was lamenting one day about walking past students on campus who would not look up and acknowledge people they passed. He said that one day he was just going to grab a student, shake them and say, “I said ‘hello’ to you!”
While that might be tempting, it would probably not go over well in my neighborhood or any neighborhood for that matter. So, I will just keep looking up and smiling as I run and maybe slowly but surely more people will respond. It really does not take much effort to be friendly so join me to help make the world a little friendlier.