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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Comedy · #1997566
Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated. Why are we hesitant to say "Hi"?
WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?                                                  
         In light of the recent Boston Marathon bombing(s), it is once again painfully obvious that the actions of a few can impact so many. Sadly, there are those with short fuses who are quick to anger. Their volatile tempers lead to explosive over-reactions. Unfortunately, Boston was ground zero for a horribly incomprehensible attack.                                                                                                              
         As grim as the aftermath is and will be, I am heartened by the many selfless souls who have proven that good people not only exist, they outnumber the bad. They refuse to throw their hands up in surrender or fall to their knees in defeat. They recognize that we are all on this planet encircling the sun. We all experience sunshine and rain, day and night. We all weather the highs and lows, the triumphs and pain of our lives. Good people are strong and compassionate. No man or woman is an island.                                                                                                    
         A certain song is now reverberating in my thoughts. ( Apparently, this is known as an " ear worm".) Some readers will recognize it, ( and date themselves), as a Bill Withers tune, Lean On Me. ( Originally released in 1972.) Here is a bit of the lyrics: Sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there's tomorrow. Lean on me, when you're not strong, And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on, For it won't be long, Till I'm gonna need, somebody to lean on....                                                                      
         Are we forgetting/neglecting to lean on each other? Have we been taught that strangers are to be avoided?                                                                                
         There is a children's book by Irma Joyce entitled Never Talk to Strangers, written with verses meant to warn children in a lighthearted manner . ( "If you are hanging from a trapeze, And up sneaks a camel with bony knees, Remember this rule if you please, Never talk to strangers.") As a parent, I understand this need to teach our progeny about strangers and protect them. No one in Boston thought of the following: If you are hanging around for a race, And up sneaks a man with a scowl on his face, Do you think to be scared or share a smile of grace? After all, he's just a stranger. Sometimes, even rarely, strangers can be bad, but aren't all unknown people, good or bad, labelled as such? Technically, a teacher begins as a stranger. Rescue personnel are often strangers. We trust doctors we may only ever meet once. We don't question the motives of cooks or waitresses/waiters at restaurants.                                                                      
         When my eldest was a toddler, she would speak to anyone, and I tried to impress upon her to be wary/careful of strangers. Strangers were supposed to be people she did not know. Fearing for her safety, fears that were unsubstantiated, I told her not to speak with everybody. She, however, was not deterred. Once she confronted a dread-locked man, passing her on the street. "What's wrong with your hair?" She was familiar with her own blonde, straight hair. This dark-haired man, with the "weird" hairstyle, was not the least bit offended. He seemed to understand she was a curious child pointing out the obvious. He was quick to good-naturedly quip, "Nothing. What's wrong with yours?"                                                                                                                        
         What had I been afraid of? Carrie had questioned a total stranger with no ill effects. Instead of listening to me, she'd chosen to copy my behaviour. During our stranger-danger talk, Carrie's comeback had been, "You do it." Her logic was irrefutable. She had me pegged because, yes, I did and still do speak with strangers. And nothing terrible has ever happened!                                                  
         One time in the busy city of Toronto, I met four women who had followed me down a set of stairs. Our common destination was a subway tunnel. In the lead, I was the first to notice a large puddle at the base of the stairs. Without a second thought, I offered to hold their handbags and assist them from the bottom step and over the water. Unhesitatingly, they handed over their four purses, and one by one, they grasped my free hand as they avoided the puddle. I joked that I wasn't a very capable purse-snatcher and they remarked that my good deed was a "Guide thing to do". I just had to confess that I was indeed a Girl Guide. This led to an instant bond as we shared reminisces about our Guiding experiences. What lovely strangers they were to gift me with their trust. We parted as five people who had forged a connection.                                                                                          
         What are we afraid of? We have a natural connection to each other. It's the little everyday things that mean so much. They convey kindness, respect and empathy. Who doesn't like to exchange smiles and greetings? That personal acknowledgement is life-affirming.                              
         We should or could smile at everyone we meet--- it's free, bilingual, and has a boomerang effect. Hold a door for someone. Pick up dropped items. Greet people, a simple "Hi" is usually well-received. Strike up a conversation--mention the weather, remark about your surroundings, whatever . How often do we share an elevator or a waiting room or stand in a line with others? We are capable of surprising each other. In a slow-moving bank line, I couldn't help but notice and then talk with a young man with Down's Syndrome. Most people were impatient, but not him. He'd looked at the Canada Day decorations and brightly announced, "Happy Birthday, Canada!" Perspective is everything and his was contagious.                                                                                                                        
         We all have far more similarities than differences. We all feel the same emotions. We all experience the same sensations. We all have the same basic needs and we all have the same physical attributes. We need to remember to thank each other. Too many times we are quick to dismiss people's actions by claiming "they're just doing their jobs". Waitresses/waiters, delivery persons, receptionists, bank tellers, firefighters, police officers, teachers and the like--- they deserve our gratitude. Who doesn't like to be appreciated?                              
         As I mentioned , I was involved in Guiding. At one of our meetings, we were doing activities in order to earn a PEACE badge. We listened to a song and afterwards we discussed the lyrics. One girl (mis)heard, "Go ahead and HIT your neighbour". ONE TIN SOLDIER'S actual lyrics are, "Go ahead and HATE your neighbour". Ah, semantics... hit or hate--- neither option is a good one.                    
         Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This seems to be my youngest grand-daughter's motto. She is tiny, but this is not a handicap. She doesn't avoid people or walk around crowds, she chooses to step forward, parting the waves. I've tried cautioning her that people don't always see her. Again, what am I afraid of? She's chosen her course.                                                                                          
         Once, at a restaurant far from home, this child asked to be excused to visit the bathroom. Her aunt soon discovered that this niece had other plans. Obviously, she'd been intrigued by the sounds of revelry emanating from a different seating area and she'd decided to investigate. Eventually, she returned to our table, with a big grin on her face and an equally big slice of cake, birthday cake as it turned out, carefully carried on a festive plate. Her astonished aunt explained that she'd found Emily singing "Happy Birthday" to a stranger, ( a very surprised but delighted "older" man). The concept of " singing for her supper" meant nothing to this girl, but her curiosity and spontaneity were rewarded.          
         Apparently, there is a new school program known as "enhanced conversation". At first, my reaction was one of incredulity. Really? Is this necessary? Do children need to be taught how to speak? Do they not just do it?          
         A teacher informed me that educators have noticed a significant number of children do not seem to know how to have or initiate a conversation. ( Is this because of cellphones and computers? Yes, they are forms of communication, but not face-to-face intimate contact.) Children need to be taught the dynamics of a conversation. There's a give and take that involves listening, waiting your turn to speak, not interrupting, valuing everyone's opinions, and offering your own contributions. This is accomplished via story-building. While brainstorming, kids are learning respect, tolerance, and empathy.                                                            
         So, what are we afraid of? We have the skills to communicate. We have the ability to support each other. Let's not live as strangers.

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