The people in my neighborhood

9:59 AM

As usual, I was running late this morning and failed to make a pot of coffee. Since it was a gray and miserable morning, this necessitated a stop at Starbucks before popping onto the highway and heading out to work. I pulled up to the drive-thru window for my latte and coffee cake (yes, it was a healthy choice morning) and said "hi" to the barista. Most of the baristas who work the early-morning drive-thru shift at my local Starbucks are charming, but this young lady more so than most. She's just darling. Her name is Martha and I'd just love to set her up with Baby Brother, but I'm sure that would be overstepping all sorts of boundaries, so I keep my match-making impulses at bay.

Anyway, Martha says "hi," and smiles, and then she says something that really surprises me. "You're always so happy!" Who? Me? Before coffee? Maybe Martha needs the coffee more than I do. Why in the name of all that is good and holy does this person think I'm happy? I smile. I try to learn people's names. I make small talk. What's unusual about this? Later, during my drive to work (during the course of which I was cut off by a bright screaming yellow PT Cruiser emblazoned with a Jesus Fish on the back--making me distinctly less happy), that perhaps maybe people aren't pleasant to the people in their neighborhoods.

It occurs to me that many people probably treat Martha the way they treated me when I was a cashier at the local supermarket. They are short-tempered and rude; they belittle the clerk because perhaps they were belittled at work, or perhaps they're just not very nice people. They don't smile. They don't remember your name even if they see you several times a week, and you're wearing a name tag. They certainly don't make small talk, because they're too busy yapping away on mobile phones while you're trying to figure out how they want their coffee or if they want paper or plastic.

Later, I found myself humming "The people in your neighborhood" song from Sesame Street. You know, about the people that you meet when you're walking down the street? The people that you meet each day? And I started thinking about the people in my neighborhood. Not just my next-door neighbors and my letter carrier, but Martha, and the motorcycle cop who directs traffic at the Catholic church on Sunday morning. Becca, the cashier at the coffee shop I visit every Sunday morning before church (who now begins to put my order together as soon as I walk through the door). Thom, the bartender at one of my favorite places to go for beers. I can cast the net wider and think of the people I see when I go for lunch or dinner after either of my jobs. And I can include the people who read my blog, and whose blogs I read in return.

It's about community, and it may sound crazy, but every little thing we do can work for or against strengthening those bonds. This isn't to say I've never lost my patience and I'm always smiling, but I try to take out my frustrations in productive ways, and not on the poor grocery sacker at the supermarket who has no idea that the cat just puked on a silk blouse and that I'm ready to kill The Beloved for letting the beast into the laundry room in the first place. When I think about it more, I'm reminded of Harvey, the 1950 film with Jimmy Stewart. If you've never seen this film, I recommend finding a copy and watching it immediately, if not sooner. This is one I can watch over and over and over again. Anyway. At one point, Jimmy Stewart's character says,
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

And you may.

You Might Also Like

3 observations

Like us on Facebook

Flickr Images