Assistant Managing Editor
The first step to dealing with an addiction is admitting you have a problem. Here it goes . I am a chatterbox. From saying my prayers in the morning, to singing along with the radio, to verbally running off my day's to-do list my gums are always flapping.
When I was a youngster my best friend's grandfather said he could hear me coming from down the street. I come from a family of talkers. We gather weekly at my mother's house and those nights are filled with roars of laughter and three or four simultaneous debates on news, politics and religion. We were raised to say good morning and good night and utilize our manners even when you thought no one was watching.
Growing up we knew our neighbors, if not by name then the ones we assigned them. Sorry "crazy lady who lives around the block," but at the time it was the only name that seemed fitting. Nevertheless, these experiences gave a sense of community and familiarity. Even now when I think of my childhood home, it's not just the literal house; it's the street, the block and all of its inhabitants. Lately, I've become acutely aware of how much members of society have stopped talking. What used to be social norms such as nodding hello or greeting a stranger with a smile and a pleasantry have now become isolated episodes. In my apartment complex, other than two families, I wouldn't recognize any of my neighbors if my life depended on it. Why? Because when I first moved in three years ago, they were the only people who welcomed me to the complex. And to this day, with all of the hustle and bustle of life, they still pause to chit chat about the weather, holiday plans or offer to help me carry in my air conditioner when I can't manage alone.
Last week as I was exiting Panera Bread I was pleasantly surprised when a woman looked at me, smiled and said, "Good Morning. Happy Monday." It was a rare, small gesture that has enormous ripples and the "pay it forward effect." Extending a kind word to a stranger may in turn prompt them to return the friendliness to someone else in the future. Sure, there's always the chance that your greeting may go unreciprocated. I've been on the end of numerous unanswered hellos. Maybe their jaws were wired shut or they were saving their voice for one heck of a bath-time sing song. Who knows the reason for their silence? But I know I happily continue to walk on with the knowledge that I have made an effort to insert pleasure into someone's day other than my own.
Of course, we all know people who walk around looking for a fight, some who can't see one ounce of good in others or prefer to deflect every positive word with a negative. Life has enough battles of its own. I say win the petty ones with kindness.
So the next time you're dealing with that crabby cashier at your favorite grocery store, plant your feet solidly on the ground, crack your knuckles, square your shoulders, look them dead in the eyes and say, "Have a nice day" and mean it. I like to think of it as psychological warfare. Then again, I do talk too much, so I may not be the best person to dish advice in this arena. If the clerk gets the upper-hand by figuring out my tactic, he or she could answer with the kryptonite to any Super Motor Mouth: "Shut up."
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to NClark@ReminderPublications.com or to 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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