A couple of recent letters to the editor in our local paper made me feel sad. And a little bothered. Both letters, a week or so apart, spoke of the degenerating social condition of our city and remembered fondly “better times” in the past. Both commented on how no one smiles and greets their neighbours and strangers on the streets, and if someone waves at you, it’s most likely with a one finger salute. Everyone is too self-absorbed, the family unit is trashed, neighbours are to be avoided…
I agree life is different than it was back in the 50’s and 60’s. In some ways it’s not as good, the innocence, such as it was, of that era is gone forever. But it’s not all bad.
Almost every day on my lunch break, I walk through the neighbourhood where I work. It’s my habit to look people in the eye and smile as I pass them. Almost without fail, the person smiles back and often they’ll say hello before I do. I know most of my neighbours on my own street by sight, many by name, and we often visit over the fence, on the sidewalk and occasionally by phone. We keep loose tabs on each other. We wave as we meet on the street in our cars. I don’t think any of this is unusual. I believe the same type of thing happens over and over in most neighbourhoods in our city.
Yes, life is busier now. Women work outside the home, we have more distractions with electronic gadgets and social media. Not all of it is for the best. Our children have been raised to be wary of strangers, so no wonder they aren’t the first to say hello or may avoid eye contact completely. But life wasn’t all roses and sunshine back in the day either. Some women were stuck in bad marriages because they didn’t have any other options. There was alcoholism, spousal abuse, teenage pregnancy, but it was all kept carefully hidden from view. The happy family sitting in the front row of church every Sunday may have been hiding some pretty dark secrets. With modern technology and the internet, it’s far more difficult to hide such things, and that’s for the good. People have more options now, there’s help available if you choose to take it.
With the good comes the inevitable bad. But to say life has gone to hell in a hand basket, that people don’t care about each other any more is making negative assumptions that just aren’t true. There’s always going to be cranky assholes out there, people who nobody can please. And thankfully there are plenty of positive people who go the extra mile to make this world a better place. It’s up to each of us to decide which category we want to belong to.
We should look for the good in others, treat others as we would like to be treated. I don’t ask that people like me, you don’t even have to respect me, but I’ll treat you with civility and expect the same treatment in return. I don’t think that’s asking too much and most people would likely agree with me.
If I could say anything to those women who wrote such depressing letters to the editor it would be: smile more, have a positive outlook and you might be surprised by the reaction you get from others. Above all, keep trying.