It started out just as most grocery trips with my four-year-old do. I convinced him he wanted to ride in the cart. He held my list to be helpful. Just over the threshold my son asked for a donut… all was normal.
As I collected items off our list one thing out of the ordinary struck me – It seemed my outspoken little boy was on a mission to say “hi” to everyone we passed.
“Hi!” His small voice was left unmet.
“They didn’t say it,” he said, turning back to me.
“They may not have heard you,” I explained.
“Hi!” He said to another while leaning far enough to shift the weight of the cart, leaving me to compensate.
Time and again strangers passed and no pleasantries were exchanged.
“Some people don’t like to talk.”
“They’re busy shopping.”
“I don’t think they heard you.”
I made excuses and explained it away.
With each passer by his, “they didn’t say it,” sounded more disappointed.
After more than a handful I was disheartened myself!
“Just…” I quickly stopped myself.
“What?” He questioned…
What? – What I was about to say was … quit!
Just give it up. People are focused on the task at hand; on themselves. They may overlook you; they may honestly not notice and some are just plain rude.
We’re distant. Now more than ever it seems. But that distance only grows when those willing to bridge the gap quit.
And just as I was about to discourage him I thought, maybe that’s how we got here… to be a room full of adults paying each other no mind… we have a handful of disappointing encounters and give up.
That could be said for many sorts of things.
“Just… keep trying if you want to. I’m sure someone will say hi.”
I quickly changed my cynicism to encouragement.
He carried on, “Hi!”
“Oh hi! How are you?”
He beamed, turning back to me, “they said it!”
“Hello, you sure are cute!” a woman responded.
“Are you helping your mommy?” her friend asked.
Now he had pulled two ladies in for a full blown conversation.
Had I stopped him or had he quit after the rocky start, he’d have missed out on the ones that greeted him back. He’d have never heard that compliment. He would have never met the two women who gave a little of their time for a simple conversation among strangers.
This shopping trip wasn’t like the others. This is the one where my son reminded me about the importance of kindness, optimism, encouragement, resilience and perseverance.