I have not one, but two stories to tell you tonight. Keep in mind that both of these events happened over the course of one day (aka today) and both are true.
Here’s the first one:
There’s an older gentleman who runs in my neighborhood. I’m not sure how old he is specifically, but let’s say that he was probably able to vote for President Truman. (And in case you’re not likely to do the math, that’s pretty old.) Yet, I sometimes see him running twice a day and in every kind of weather. And he has time to say hello. Living in the time that we all do, I don’t always get a “hello” from anyone. Actually, I don’t even get the little wave when I let someone driving go before me. A “hello” is about as rare as finding a $20 bill in the mall parking lot. So, imagine my surprise when I’m going out to my car this morning, and I hear such a quiet, little “hello” from the man always running down my less than quiet street. I returned the “hello” and walked back in the house, grinning from the kind start to my day.
Here’s the second one:
I like to take walks with my mom at night. We walk a good distance through the neighborhood. We see a lot of people coming home, taking out the trash, turning on sprinklers. And we also see people speeding. We feel cars whiz by us, and the sidewalk always feels too narrow. But we make do, walking side by side, keeping away from the road. That is, until tonight, when some bro screamed “HEY” at us from his buddy’s car. I clutched my invisible pearls and jumped a little into the air. I looked up to glare at the passing car and heard both occupants chuckling as they sped away, gaining what, I don’t know, from scaring two women (as if men don’t do that all day, every day!). I was silently fuming the entire way home.
Now, as a reminder, both of these events happened in one day, today. One “Hello” and one “Hey.” But such different messages. One made me believe in karma and one made me wish for it.
For me, it’s hard to reconcile these events. How can people be so nice and so cruel in the same span of time?
And then I realized what I was confronted with: a physical embodiment of the human condition.
In short, there are going to be people who will go out of their way to be nice. And then there are going to be people who will think it’s funny to torture complete strangers. And sometimes, both reactions are going to come from the same person (although I would argue that what separates both people in this case is maturity).
But that’s what humans are. We’re this swirling mass of impulses, both good and bad. We have the I should say hello instinct, and we also have the let’s scream “hey” at these people instinct. One will always win out. Thankfully, both probably won’t win out in a single day in two different people, like they did to me. But maybe they’ll fight the same battle in you.
And as much as you can, try to feed the “hello” impulse. I, and your neighborhood, will thank you.