Shira at Al Tzitzit is right; it's been a grim weekend. In hopes of brightening things up, I present this:
I noticed, a while back, that I was ignoring people as I walked around town. I think most of us do this; it's been somewhat socialized into us, that we're supposed to keep to ourselves, don't talk to strangers, and don't be rude by staring. This is especially a problem for me in two areas: walking around "tough" parts of town (ie, those without a Starbucks) where I feel the need to project a badass attitude for safety reasons; and when I catch myself looking at a cute woman, and have to snap my gaze to the floor and ignore her so I don't get "caught" staring at her.
It's interesting that we've gotten to the point that we're taught to ignore people in order to avoid being rude to them.
I also started to think about how bad I felt when people just ignored me, like I wasn't even there. The Mr. Cellophane effect, if you will. It's absolutely crushing to be on the receiving end, and slowly I realized that maybe, just maybe, these other people were also, you know, people, and might have emotions of their own. And maybe they would like to be acknowledged as such, instead of ignored.
After catching myself doing this one too many times, I resolved to do a better job of, at the least, acknowledging people as I walked past them. Sometimes it's a nod, or a glance; sometimes I even go so far as to speak to them. A simple, "Hey," or, if I'm feeling very vocal, "Hello"!
Sometimes it's a smile.
I got a good reminder today of the power of the simple smile. Walking home from work, I passed a woman walking home with her grade school aged son. The kid looked like he was enjoying the day, but his mother just looked tired and worn out. Beyond a lack of smile; she was actively frowning.
I smiled at her, a quick, purely reflexive thing, and made eye contact for the barest fraction of a second.
As I was passing her, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big smile break across her face.
Maybe she was laughing at me - it happens often enough. Maybe her son did something funny at that moment. Either way, it looked like a genuine smile, and I felt like I helped put it there.
That made me feel good.
We forget sometimes how much impact the smallest of gestures can make. We get discouraged from giving to charity because we can't give million dollar donations. Or discouraged from volunteering because we can't spend the entire summer rebuilding homes in New Orleans. But those small efforts add up!
Working at the Scouts, I funded camp scholarships for hundreds of boys, twenty dollars at a time. At our Temple's Mitzvah Day last year, we assembled boxed lunches for a local food bank; hundreds of sandwiches were made, boxed, and delivered, and most of the attendees only put in two hours, three at the most.
Even smaller than that, I believe the little ways we interact with people in our daily lives has a big impact on the world around us. Call it the Good Omens philosophy; each individual act is just a drop of water, but enough of them create new rivers and bring down mountains.