Today was a nice, warmish day, birds singing and the freshness of spring in the air, so I went for a walk. Photography is one of my passions, so I always make sure I take my camera with me on such excursions. As a result, my eyes wander around me a bit, looking for things that might be worth pointing a camera at. There were a few people out and about, and in most cases we would greet each other with a smile at least. But the majority of people I saw were of course in cars, as humanity steps further and further away from the simple pleasures of nature. At one point, as my eyes were wandering around, they met those of a college age boy who was sitting in a car that was temporarily stopped. Since our eyes met, I smiled a little and nodded in greeting, and continued along my path. Seconds after I passed, as the car started up again, I heard an aggressive voice say “What the [email protected]#$ are YOU looking at!”
This saddened me. My first instinct was to say something, but I realized that there is nothing I could say to that person that would not provoke him. So I continued walking, with one question echoing in my mind. “Why?” What provoked that reaction? What was so threatening about a smile and a nod? Worse yet he did not even have the courage to say it there was nothing I could do about it. But the question remained. What prompted that reaction?
The answer is the really sad part. That boy did not come out of his mother’s womb with balled fists and a threatening glare. He did not go through his formative years picking fights and threatening people simple because they greeted him. That kind of reaction is something we are taught; it is something that only those who raise us can instill into us. We have become a world that teaches distrust. A society that has defined a stranger as enemy, even if they come from our own town. We teach our children to fear and threaten anyone new, and then wonder why the world is riddled with war. It is plain and simply our own fault!
How do we change this? It is no easy task, because those that will so teach their children are ingrained in this way of thinking already. They teach distrust and fear because they too were raised that way. So the only answer is for those of us with open hearts and minds to not only show them that there is another way of thinking, but to ensure that our OWN children learn it as well. Even the best meaning people will often instill their children with fear and doubt, in order to protect them. We may not always recognize the power our word choices have on our children, and we can unintentionally give them the wrong message, without even realizing it. There is a big difference between caution and fear. There is a big difference between caution and aggression. Instead of teaching our children to simply fear strangers, how about teaching them to recognize when strangers may be a danger. Teach them to recognize the difference between proper and improper behavior; to think for themselves and how to use their own instincts. That way maybe when they grow up, they will accept a simple hello from a passing man as nothing more than a hello.
What a difference THAT might make.