One of the "back of my mind" goals for 2012 is to be nicer to people. Not people I know and love and interact with on a regular basis like my mom and Blair and friends--let's not get crazy. No, instead I'm focusing more attention on being nice to complete strangers.
Why? Too often I go through life head down, so focused on getting to the next place or achieving the next goal I just blow by the people the Universe has placed in my path. What would happen if I actually stopped and paid attention to them?
Yesterday I was working in a local coffeehouse and an older gentleman came in. We exchanged hello's and he asked me if I had "one of those iPhones." I said I did and he pulled out a brand new model and asked if I knew how to check and see if he had a voicemail.
I showed him how to access his voicemail and he explained his wife usually showed him how to work these things. I smiled, picturing a sweet gray-haired woman leaning over an instruction manual and then he said, "She used to be a programmer with the FBI."
Uh, hello--you have my attention. It gets better. Then he says, "I used to work command missions for the CIA."
Pull up a chair! I sat and talked with this fascinating individual for almost 40 minutes. He told stories of past missions (he and his team pushing over a downed helicopter so they could use one of the guns on it to fire at attacking enemies) and how he and his wife met and eventually how they came to settle in this area.
The amazing part to me is that this guy was totally non-descript. Nothing about him, including the fact that he had to ask me how to access his voicemail, hinted at the rich and exciting life he'd led. But isn't that true for most people? We have no idea the fascinating ideas, dreams, or travels of so many people around us because we assume that what we observe on the surface is all that's there.
I'm probably more guilty of this type of assuming behavior than most people. Hence the resolve to do a better job of "seeing" people for who they really are, and maybe taking just a bit of time to listen to their stories.
It's asking a lot from someone who is not naturally a "people-person." That's why I'm using this year to focus on strangers. I can't be expected to do that AND up my game with friends and loved ones.
Being nice to them will have to wait for 2013.
If they're lucky. ;)