I have such a low expectation for kindness. I think that comes from years of being a physical and emotional punching-bag for bullies. Normal polite behavior seems kind to me.
When I moved to New Jersey from my southern home 27 years ago, I was “instructed” by my husband in the various rules of New Jersey etiquette. He admonished me if I spoke to a stranger on the street or made eye contact with someone while passing by. I got the impression that speaking to strangers is just not acceptable behavior. But he was one of the most outgoing personalities that I had ever known. So he never practiced what he preached. I think he was just more concerned for my safety but I had no naivete about dealing with people.
I don’t think people here are as anti-social as others are led to believe. Kindness produces kindness.
In spite of my shyness, I ignored Richard’s advice and said hello or waved to strangers that I passed on the street. The grouchy neighbors couldn’t be too grouchy if I was nice to them. And the store cashiers were pleasant when I smiled and spoke to them. Perhaps a smile from one customer can cancel out a few transactions with the unpleasant ones.
Now I’m on my own and during my daily walks to local stores, when I see an approaching stranger, I think of the caution I was taught and wonder, “do I avert my eyes and pretend I don’t see them?” or “do I take the risk of saying hello?” It seems like an experiment to see what will happen if I choose to be friendly. I initiate the hello half of the time and am happy when the other person speaks first. I imagine they are just as surprised to receive a smile and a hello.
It seems silly to consider a simple greeting a kindness, but it makes my day just a little better. I hope it has the same effect on the other person.