I was in the store I frequent the other morning chatting with the clerk who has become our friend. He is someone with a friendly, sunny disposition who is a bit older than myself.
Me: “Ken, you’ve been here awhile. Do they have you working full time now?”
Ken: “Just about! But it’s ok because I like getting out of the house and I love our customers! They are the best.”
Me: “I can appreciate that. I’m a people person myself and thrive on interacting with others.”
Ken: “Yes, I love people.”
The Lady behind me: “It depends on the people.”
My question is, so does being friendly depend on the people that we come in contact with or on us? Perhaps both. Of course, we certainly need to be polite, careful and safe. Some people may not respond to friendliness or may not reciprocate a friendly comment. That’s ok, and in those instances, it may be best to retreat and respect their boundaries. Other times, I’ve noticed that some people are grateful for an interchange and a human (or humane) encounter.
For me, for the most part, I find that I really like most of the people that I meet. Maybe it’s the sweet little town that I live in, but the people here tend to be open and kind. It may be different in the big city, although I’ve been to New York a couple of times and was surprised by the friendliness of the people.
Something interesting that I’ve found is that instead of letting our preconceived impressions always stop us, sometimes, it’s ok to be brave and proceed. Some of my best friends in life have been what might be pinned as “crusty” people. People who’ve had a hard life, or have lost that trust in humanity and respond with sarcasm, cynicism, and perhaps a little bitterness. A woman that I knew, I’ll call her Candy, was such a person. She was tough, had a challenging home situation, smoked a lot and did not care for insincere or phony people. I was asked at church to visit her on a regular basis and was a little nervous. What I ignorantly envisioned might be beneficial to her, became my blessing. Candy was a talented cook, quilter and sang tenor in the choir. She was also a gardener, hard worker and always welcomed me with open arms.
I visited her for a couple of years and had the privilege of spending her last months with her before she passed of lung cancer. We were able to express our appreciation for our friendship and she left me some of her cookbooks, which I now treasure. Afterwards, we became close with her husband, who did not let a lot of people in his circle. The evidence of God’s love for each of His children continued as we spent time with Candy’s husband, until he too eventually passed.
We are so limited in our vision regarding others. In our fast-paced world, we usually just barely get to scratch the surface of someone’s character and personality and can’t or don’t invest the time required to get to dig deep enough to really know someone. But in quick meetings, we can certainly give them the benefit of the doubt.
In the store, after the woman said, “It depends on the people.” I saw something in her that I recognized-that hurt and cynicism. That suspicion. I responded to Ken (but mostly her), that all we can do is look for the good in people. We talked a bit and Ken finished ringing me up and as I left, I wished her a good day and as she wished me the same, our eyes met and we smiled. I felt an understanding between us that we were momentary friends and that it was a sweet golden moment.
It’s true, that in today’s society, we have to be cautious and a little wary. That can sometimes cause us to be defensive and suspicious. We need to remind ourselves that friendliness, in a safe setting, brings back humanity into society and can lift others, and ourselves out of a dark world.