One of the quickest ways I have been brought back to reality upon my return from Guatemala is the overall lack of friendliness among folks in the states.
Now, don’t get me wrong…No one has been overly rude and unkind to me. It’s just that, overall, it seems that we are only truly nice and interested in those we already know.
Walking through the cities of Guatemala, complete strangers would smile, wave, and say “hola”, accompanied by the “buenos dias”, “buenos tardes”, or “buenos noches” appropriate for the time of day.
At first, it was a bit overwhelming. I mean, every person you would pass would kindly greet you. Entire groups of teenagers, yes even teenagers, would individually greet those walking by.
By the end of my time in Guatemala, it was an old habit. A smile, a “hola”, a “buenos” whatever…
And, somehow…mysteriously, I guess, I found myself feeling more connected with my surroundings. In a simple, “hello” accompanied by a smile, there was an unexplainable sense of unity…of community. It gave me an overwhelming feeling that I was welcome.
As soon as we landed in Atlanta, I could feel that this unity was left behind…it was obvious that I was back to the American reality. That American reality is seemingly focused on individuality…in the idea that we do not need one another.
Walking through the airport, even smiling at those passing by made me feel like an idiot. Rather than receiving smiles in return, I would get those looks of “something must be wrong with that guy” or the “that’s creepy” look. And, when the smile is accompanied by a “hello”…9 times out of 10 the hello is not returned. In fact, even when walking through our neighborhood, our attempts to greet our neighbors are often ignored…a simple “hello” is ignored…or a simple dirty look is quickly flashed. Of course, I often cast my judgment upon those who ignore my friendly gestures…I make comments like, “well, aren’t you just filled with personality” or “what the heck is wrong with that person”.
And, I don’t blame anyone for this kind of reaction. Prior to my experience in Guatemala, I was the same way. When in public, I would often keep my head down…doing my best to avoid having to interact with people. Or I would try to look so busy…in such a rush…that people would somehow realize that I just couldn’t be bothered. If someone I did not know smiled and said “hello”, I might have returned the “hello”…but I would have walked away thinking “boy, that person sure is a piece of work.”
I now better understand what it feels like to be a greeter at Walmart who is often ignored while people speed past in order to buy a case of Mountain Dew and a family size bag of nacho cheese Doritos.
I now better understand what it feels like to be one of those friendly old farmers driving around in his 30-year-old pickup waving at everyone he passes…only to be ignored or given dirty looks.
So, I guess my desire is to help bring about some change in this area.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we would say “hello” and “good morning”, “good afternoon”, or “good evening” to the people we encounter? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were intentional about being kind to those around us? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we responded more positively to those who attempt to be friendly to us?
You see, a simple smile and “hello” might be a bigger deal than you think…
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:43-47 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.