With all the holiday shopping behind us, people can get back to everyday cordiality. Civility can be restored. Folks can return to politeness.
Don't count on it, though. However, it is nice when everyone is nice to each other, don't you think? Sure it is.
I try to be nice all the time. It's not hard. Yet, our world is full of grumps, or so it can seem.
Some of those grumps, you see, aren't really grumpy. They're walking around amongst us, with their minds adrift elsewhere. You know what I mean? They're thinking about something that might or might not be pleasant. Whatever that might be, they're not thinking about the rest of us. They don't mean to look grumpy and standoffish; it's just that they're in another world, as they walk past us.
When I see a forlorn soul staring out from a set of lifeless eyes placed above a down-on-life frown, I smile a big smile, and I try to lock eyes with his or hers. Often it works, and I lure out genuine smiles from many of those people. In fact, it works more often than not.
I do it a lot in stores – especially in places like Wal-Mart. I see a lot of sourpuss faces in Wal-Mart. So, as I head for whatever it is that I need to pick up, I lock eyes with a lot of them and flash big grins and lure out some quite pleasant smiles from those sour mugs. Each time I succeed, I see that he or she wasn't really grumpy or unhappy. Hopefully, she or he sees it, too, and continues to smile for the rest of the day.
I tried my happy smile on a woman at church a couple of weeks ago. I hardly could believe that someone could look so grumpy in church. I said to myself: Here you go, Lord; let me inspire this one for you.
I locked eyes and smiled. Holy moly! Lord, have mercy, it didn't work! Her frown did not budge, and she looked at me as if to say: What the heck are you lookin' at?
Oh, no. Did she think I was trying to hit on her? Did she think I was crazy? Not to be deterred, I switched from a warm smile to a cheesy grin. Yikes! It still wasn't working. Should I go for the throat, like Tom Cruise did to Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men"?
"You can't handle the truth!" Jack's character, Col. Nathan R. Jessup, yelled.
What would happen now, in church, in front of the congregation? Could it possibly be? You know: "You can't handle the smile!"
I went for it. This time, I cocked my head to one side in the most charming way and smiled as warm as a human being could smile. And it worked! Her lips curved upward, evoking a genuine, heartfelt smile. I could almost feel the glorious, glowing, morning light shine through the stained glass windows of the church and onto my shoulders. What a sweet smile.
Today is the last day of 2013. A lot of people will be smiling tonight, as they ring in the new year – many toasting 2014 with some bubbly Champagne or some other kind of cheer. We'll all be cheerful and nice to each other.
Perhaps we can carry the niceties into and through the new year. Smile big for me. It's nice to be nice.