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A cheerful voice responds. “Good morning!”
Two friends meeting after years of separation? Family members reuniting?
No, we have never met, at least, neither of us remembers having seen the other in a random crowd or passing on a sidewalk or sitting near each other in a restaurant. To the best we each know, this is our first meeting.
And yet we greet each other in a smiling, friendly way.
I volunteered my weekend at the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival at Huntington Beach State Park. Standing at the entrance to the former winter home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, I checked tickets, distributed a brochure with a map of the vendors and schedule of the entertainers, and welcomed visitors to the festival. Over and over, to the thousands of people streaming through the gate, I smiled and said, “Good morning. Welcome to the festival. Have a great day.”
Almost everyone smiled and responded, “Good morning.”
With more than a few, the conversation went longer. One cheerful lady wore a Charlotte NBA All-Stars shirt and a Charlotte Hornets hat adorned with a sparkling pin of Sir Purr, the mascot of the Carolina Panthers. I asked if she was from Charlotte.
“Lawdy, no, I’m from Pawleys Island, but I have family up there.” Her answer was capped off with an infectious laugh.
When I mentioned I had lived in Charlotte for years, she lit up. We chatted for several minutes comparing favorite hangouts and common connections. A casual observer would have thought we had known each other our whole lives, but we were just two strangers being friendly.
Others talked about the weather, favorite restaurants, towns they were from. The conversations and banter were constant. Friendly person after friendly person smiled and chatted.
I did say almost everyone. One guy, upset he had to pay to get into the festival, stomped away from the gate loudly proclaiming he was going home. His wife rolled her eyes at his tantrum, smiled, and wished me good morning before turning around to catch her husband. After a quick conversation, he joined the line to purchase tickets and soon escorted her through the gate. She warmly greeted me again with a hearty “Good morning.” He grumpily avoided my gaze.
After a long, exhausting day, I rode my bicycle back to my house along a greenway trail. “Good afternoon,” I greeted a passing bicyclist. “Good afternoon,” he called back. We had nothing known in common except a path and bicycles.
Since they couldn’t come to the festival with me, the dogs were eagerly awaiting their walk. We hooked everyone up and headed out along the greenway, this time on foot and paw. We passed walkers and bicyclists and even a skateboarder. “Good evening,” we said as we smiled at other walkers and bicyclists. “Good evening,” they responded.
Our highways are filled with honking horns and aggressive driving. Social media drips the vitriol we spit at each other. The news reports stories of conflict and horror. Sometimes, we seem to strive to fill our lives with hate and division and anger.
But one on one, at festivals, in parks, and on greenways, we smile and greet each other with abandon, strife and politics pushed aside as we enjoy a day of music and food or a quiet walk along a meandering path.
Makes you wonder why we can’t do that all the time.
A simple challenge for you today. Smile and wish a perfect stranger, “Good morning.” Maybe they smile and return the greeting. Or maybe you leave them wondering what you are up to.
Either way, it’ll be fun.