Warning: this piece was revised after a review of transcendentalist literature. Read with humanity and/or divinity.
You know, you never really appreciate human kindness until you're deprived of it.
Imagine you're walking down the street in a busy city. The wind is blowing, the sun is shining. It's a beautiful day. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming. You're walking. You're happy.
As you're in a busy city, there are probably plenty of people around you most of the time. In cities we are surrounded by each other. We envelop each other. We penetrate each other's lives. It's unavoidable.
So, we're back in Spring. You're walking. You're happy. You find yourself excited by the very fact that you are alive. You want to share this enthusiasm, this bonheur de vivre with everyone around. So, you shoot someone a smile. You flash your pearly whites in order to give away some of the joy that is bounding within you.
And you're greeted with disdain. Or at best you are ignored.
This is the reality today. For some reason, we've stopped trusting each other. It's drilled into us as children. "Don't talk to strangers." "Never open the door unless your parents are around." We compartmentalize people in order to separate ourselves from them. We, of course, want to view ourselves as perfectly normal and well-adjusted, so we adjust our perception of the world accordingly. We take the trait we find best in ourselves and use it as our universal measuring stick.
If you ask yourself what you value most in other people, it will probably be the same thing which you cherish most about yourself. And in this way we are able to regard the great majority of people in the world as misfits.
Do your own study. How many people have taken a self-defense class vs. how many people have taken a first-aid class. The results may startle.
This is startlingly present in the country in which I presently find myself. It happens to be a former Communist state. The prevailing mindset here is that "other people" are merely obstacles to your success. You can either hurdle them, or be defeated by them. This attitude shows itself in dense situations, like public transportation. I was on a bus the other day, and two German girls were chatting away in the aisle. I was trying (without success) to follow their conversation when the bus stopped. An older woman, without saying "Excuse me," shoved her way between these girls while shouting at them "Jesus Mary mother of God, what is wrong with you two!" Ironically, this is a very Catholic country (You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain - Ex. 20-7). The two girls were just shocked. I leaned over to them and muttered (in English), "Very nice, eh?" They returned a knowing smile.
I wish I could say this was an isolated instance. Or that it was located only in this country. But I've run into the same thing all over, in varying degrees. It's part of capitalism. And business. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and addressed the woman carrying your food to you as "Waitress?" How many of you think often of "end users?" Whence comes this audacity? Why do we think we're allowed to diminish other human beings? When someone asks us for money on the street, why do we automatically cringe? We live in constant fear of scam artists, so we miss chances to show our humanity at it's greatest deed: generosity.
We've lost touch with ourselves. How then can we hope to bind ourselves to other people?
I remember reading about this guy in New York who gave away free hugs. What a sublime idea. I think he's still doing it. And, rather than thinking him crazy as many of my counterparts do, I find him quite brave. To not press yourself upon anyone and yet make yourself totally available, both physically and emotionally, is an act of convergence that most of us would not undertake. And yet I can't help wondering if that is what heaven is like. A bunch of people hugging each other.
To bring it back to a point, I can just say that I personally now make it a priority to smile at as many people as possible. And it is specifically smiling *at* someone and not just into the air. That gracious act that says "I acknowledge you. You make me happy. Thank you."