This I believe

January 18, 2009
By alice turski, Houston, TX

This I believe: Everyone deserves a hello and smile.
People don’t see, they perceive. We are the products of evolution. As long as survival remains a priority to us, assessments will accompany our observations. In the battle for title of the fittest, an accurate evaluation of one’s adversary is vital. True, the rules of the game have changed over the years; we no longer spar physically, but verbally. No longer spawned from bloodshed, our triumphant conquests are often subtly veiled by polite decorum. We’ve become ruthless in our efficient navigation of societal regulations.
In an era of global interconnection, relations have become crucially important and critically unstable. Competition has ensured that no one’s status is fixed. No one’s success is steady. Asking people to shed their preconceptions of the world would be the equivalent of asking people to drive blind.
We all know that one glance is enough to mold a stranger into a friend or enemy. That no one is exempt to our judgment is the only equality in our stereotypes. We do not see strangers as individuals, but as members of the class their “look” represents. In a time where our actions are dominated by our presumptions, I say forsake convention. Greet with smiling, not calculating, eyes. Greet with a hello, not prosecuting silence. Acknowledge those that society has ostracized.
Yesterday I decided to measure the chaos my rebellion could wreak. No one was pardoned from my cheerful hellos and wide smiles. My greetings lit most eyes with surprised delight. Some were too surprised to return my greetings in the time it took for me to pass them. Others managed only to stutter out words that resembled hello. Finally I met my match, a gentleman who had mastered the art of greeting people. I had no chance against his cheerful “good morning”, smile, and nod. Unbidden, my face broke into a smile before I was conscious of what had transpired. Mere seconds later, I was seized by a vainly curious urge to determine if his greetings were gifts he bestowed indiscriminately, or, if I had been singled out in interest. He did indeed greet everyone that crossed him. Strewn in his path was a multitude of dazed, smiling people. The twinge of jealousy and disappointment I felt at his promiscuity surprised me. At his acknowledgment, I had felt special and important.
So why not take a break from the social scheming and the biased judgments that fill our day? Go on a rampage of greetings and see how many smiles you can coax from strangers, how many days you can brighten. Begin your relationships with a smile and a hello.

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