It’s not often that the posts on my two different blogs overlap, but today it happened. I’m reviewing a book called “A Better Ten Commandments,” and it occurred to me that we should use what that author calls “positive reciprocity” more often. In other words, instead of waiting for the other guy to make the positive move, be polite first. Do unto others.
Because yesterday someone opened a door for me. It was a simple act of kindness; I was about to enter a building carrying two boxes of books. They were heavy enough to make it awkward to shift them all to one arm and open a door for myself. A young man going out stopped, stepped back and held the door open. A young woman also waiting to enter the building waved me ahead.
I proceeded through and pushed the button for the elevator. When it arrived, a lady with a baby carriage was trying to come out. The young woman, who was also waiting, reached in and held the door so she could exit.
When I had delivered the books and was coming back down in the elevator, who should be inside but the original young woman. Reaching the main floor, we grinned at each other as I bowed her out ahead of me. Then she held the outside door for me as we left the building.
There, in the space of five minutes, we see what our society is all about. Those who are burdened receive cheerful help from those who are not. All four individuals involved in that interaction walked away feeling good about themselves and about the others.
To put the icing on the cake, I was the only Caucasian face in the group. The others looked like they were of Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent. As if any of us cared.
Which Brings to Mind Another Incident.
One of my sons is of the opinion that I’m a bit of a Pollyanna, but this is how it works. I always interact with people. To be specific, I wave and smile at flaggers and ferry workers who direct traffic. It’s a boring, thankless job, I’ve done the like myself, and I want them to know they’re appreciated. Sometimes they smile and wave back, which always makes me feel good.
Last weekend I had to get to Vancouver Island for a sailing race. Friday night in the summer season; I had a reservation for the Duke Point ferry to Nanaimo. Just as I’m pulling up to the ticket window there’s an announcement. The ferry, which was already over capacity, had been cancelled due to mechanical failure.
My reservation was useless on the next ferry, 2 1/2 hours later, which would be full of all the cars waiting for this one. So I was looking at 5 hours wait to get on the next ferry after that. However, the guy in the ticket booth said he thought he could get me on another ferry that went to Swartz Bay, near Victoria. I would just have to drive 90 kilometres to get to Nanaimo. I did the math and said, “Fine.”
So I drove down the lane assigned and waited for the next ferry. Sure enough, finally our lane started moving. I drove confidently ahead. As I reached the man at the front directing the traffic, I gave him my habitual wave and a larger-than-usual smile, tinged with relief.
“That’s funny,” I thought. “He was already lifting his hand to wave to me.”
Then he waved me forward, raised his hand further and stopped the car behind me; I was the last car allowed on the ferry. I am sure he was about to stop me, but couldn’t bear to disappoint such a friendly person, so he let me go ahead. It was a case where the nice guy was happy to finish last, because at least he got to finish.
So when you read the newspapers and watch the TV news, and it’s all violence and conflict, and you throw up your hands and say, “What can anyone do?” remember this:
Open doors. Smile. Make personal contact. Give and receive. It doesn’t matter which, just do it.