Drove to town yesterday. Found one sweet spot on the side of the road where the cell phone works and talked to my Dad for a bit. Opened a PO Box, borrowed some books from the library and did a little grocery shopping. Had lunch out, washed the pollen-encrusted car, inquired about a job, and joined a civic organization. Got turned around three times and asked for directions twice. Spotted a thrift shop and a yarn store for later trips to town. All in all, a good day.
What stood out were the people. The good-natured grin on the officer who recorded my emergency contact information and told me where to get new license plates. A patient postal worker who welcomed me to the area. Stories swapped with the librarian about country life vs. city life and “America’s Most Wanted Patrons”. Shoppers in the grocery store who smiled and actually said “Excuse me” as we veered around one another. Two teenage boys who directed me to the next place I needed to go, even though one said “I don’t know the name of the road . . . I don’t even have a car . . . just make a left at the Dairy Queen.” These may seem like simple things, but that’s the point. Everyone I interacted with yesterday showed simple kindness to a stranger. It was their default mode.
On computers and other electronic devices, there are default settings – the generic settings preset by the creator that remain in place until the end-user deliberately changes them. That’s the default mode – the original settings. When all else fails, you can reformat the hard drive or stick a paper clip into the reset switch in order to return to the default mode. That’s how it feels to be back in a small town, in this slower-paced and simpler lifestyle. Like I’m returning to the settings originated by my creator.
Think: When was the last time you were in a new environment? How did it feel to be a stranger in town? What’s your default mode when it comes to interacting with strangers? What would you like it to be?
Say: Strike up a conversation with someone in the grocery line, or wherever you happen to interact with folks you don’t know. Discover some commonalities and swap stories.
Do: Act as if you are in default mode. As Gandhi said “Be the change.”