By: Grace Kennedy
One morning this past summer, I was walking downtown when a woman smiled at me and said “good morning.” Regrettably, I was caught off-guard, bogged down in my thoughts, and barely managed a gibberish-sounding “good morning” in return.
After taking about ten more steps, a pair of men observing a car turned to look at me walking by. One waved and the other said “good morning.” Again, I was caught off-guard by this unexpected interaction and I merely smiled back at them. As other women will agree, we often have our backs up and can be quick to judge attention we receive from the opposite sex as being unwarranted. In this instance, the greeting was genuine and I felt remorse that I had not given a response in the same warm manner they had reached out in.
A few minutes later, I walked past another man and he smiled and greeted me with “good morning.” This time I was present enough to send him a genuine smile and return the greeting. However, by this third interaction, I was so alarmed by the friendliness that paranoia kicked in and I contemplated the chances of me being part of some hidden-camera social experiment. I even pictured my first-year sociology professor as the probable culprit.
Something is either severely wrong with my level of paranoia, or some of you may agree, we don't often expect smiles and friendliness from strangers.
As you've probably assumed, I wasn't the victim of a social experiment. I just happened to experience three people consecutively say “good morning” to me. The most flabbergasting thing is just how shaken I was by this experience. What does this say about how I'm used to interacting with strangers?
There are certain incidences when I expect greetings from strangers. When I'm out for a jog on a Sunday morning, I come across many seniors who say “good morning,” and I'm always well-equipped to instigate this greeting or respond. However, if I'm heading out for a jog after the rest of the population has awoken from their slumbers or escaped their hangovers, eye contact and a smile from fellow humans is almost nonexistent.
Are we too cool/too busy/too different from one another to say “good morning”? Are we too engulfed in thinking about how we did on our term paper or staring down at our Instagram feed to acknowledge others? What is it that causes us to briskly pass each other, look at the ground, or shift our eyes away as soon as they meet?
I didn't research the benefits of smiling before writing this article. Instead, I just sat on my couch smiling to try and grasp what exactly smiles have the power to do. Once I got past the mildly weird feeling of this exercise, I found that happy thoughts flowed into my mind, merely by embracing my own smile. Or it could have been the chance of hilarity of my roommate walking in, but I'll go with the former.
It's really hard to dwell on negative thoughts, like the fact that you just burnt a pizza in the oven, when you're smiling. My mind wandered to how funny it was when I fell asleep on the bus and missed my stop the day before.
Smiling is a pretty amazing natural gift we all have. We've all heard it's contagious and we know what it's like to receive a smile from a friend or a loved one. But what if we used this smile superpower on a more regular basis? I don't have a witty answer to this semi-rhetoric question, so I suggest that we all just smile on.