If you follow me on Twitter (@Kim_A_Howard), you may already know this, but I like to say ‘good morning’ to people when I’m out walking the dogs. I like to say it to elderly people who may not speak to many other human beings during their day; to small children who might feel anxious about meeting dogs in the park; to people of different ethnicities who may not always be greeted warmly in their daily interactions with others. I say ‘hello’ to people I know and people I don’t. I smile and greet the walking world without discrimination.
The reactions I get vary greatly. Some people are open to the greeting. They smile and say ‘good morning’ back. They may make a comment about the weather or the dogs or the day. Sometimes people respond with a nod and a grunt – not the warmest of replies, but still an acknowledgement.
I’d like to say these two groups are in the majority but, unfortunately, they aren’t. Many people look startled, worried or confused when I address them. Some look downright terrified and others take a huge swerve to keep out of arm’s reach. It’s as if they think this short, fat woman in late middle-age – armed with dogs, poo bags and dog treats – is about to launch an unprovoked attack. It makes me sad, but doesn’t stop me from continuing to make human contact whenever I can. There are people who I see on a regular basis with whom my tenacity has started to make a difference. I am gradually chipping away at the reserve and fear of my fellow walkers and some of them now respond to me rather than ducking their heads and turning away. Result!
So, I gave you that bit of background information so I can ask a question. What’s the difference between ‘good morning’ and ‘happy new year’? Why do some people react like ‘good morning’ is a weaponised phrase? No one has responded in that way when I’ve wished them ‘happy new year’ or, a week ago, ‘merry Christmas’. Those two phrases have universally been responded to with a smile and a returned wish for my own happiness.
This last two weeks has been positively joyous. I’ve been met with warmth and friendliness from everyone I’ve greeted. How long can I reasonably go on wishing everyone a Happy New Year? I’m not looking forward to going back to ‘good morning’ and ‘hello’. I wish the seasonal good will would last all year and so I will continue greeting everyone I meet and hope for happy faces.
Good morning to you!