By Bernie Bates

A car passes by and inside is a person who is completely unaware of my gaze, my intrusion or even of my own existence. And I ask myself: what are they thinking, where are they going, what’s their story? This particular thought has crossed my mind many times before. And I was wondering if you too, have pondered this as well or am I special?

These people seem so focused, so intent on their destination that they rarely make eye contact with me. All I know is that their heart beats just like mine. I know that somewhere someone waits and cares for them. Other than that, I have no idea what makes them tick. What makes these people laugh or what can bring them to tears?

I sometimes worry that society is becoming fragmented into religious, ethnic or economic groups. We seem so detached from our fellow human beings, even from those who are so close that we could literally reach out and touch them. Not that I’m recommending that you feel up the lady next to you in the elevator. But ask yourself, what do I really know about those around me? Again, boundaries must be respected, but are we so afraid of rejection that we close ourselves off? Do you find yourself looking away rather than openly smiling? I’m not suggesting that you walk down the street grinning like a fool, but rather, presenting yourself as beginning an open and approachable person.

Being a people-person myself, I find that a smile and the simple acknowledgment of saying hello, works wonders. A person who at first glance looks angry may simply be using their grimace as a defensive mechanism. When in reality they are as eager as you are to communicate. You know how nice it is when someone cares enough to ask you, “So, how’s your day going?” The only problem with that question is they may just tell you the entire twenty-four hours minute by agonizing minute.

Profiling people by their looks is a doubled edge sword. On one hand, approaching a person who’s frowning could be as rewarding as uncovering a shiny gem. On the other hand you could be opening a can of spit and venom. And that’s where our primal instincts come in handy. If you can look a person in the eye and are able to tell within a microsecond whether you should turn tail and run or turn on the charm, could make or break – your nose.

Some folks walk this Earth with a big chip on their shoulder and play the part of the tough guy. They seemingly wake up just to make the rest of us as miserable as they are. I’m sure everyone knows a jerk like that. Or maybe you see one every morning as you look in the mirror. What purpose does it serve to be a mean-spirited a-hole? Is it to isolate themselves from humanity? The worst thing that they can do to a person in prison is to put them into solitary confinement. What a sad and lonely existence. I guess it’s like hemorrhoids, eventually, every ass gets it in the end.

On to something more uplifting, for example the corners of a mouth. In general most of us are communal animals. We search out acceptance and praise in our daily lives. And the best tool we upright monkeys have is a great big smile. If you can make another person smile, you’re unwittingly furthering human evolution. Together, we homo-sapiens can reach for the stars, and in doing so heal the scares of war, prejudices and hatred – one smile at a time. It’s hard to believe, but one of the most powerful weapons mankind has is the joke. If you think about it, how could you possibly be mad at someone if you’re sharing a laugh with them? So let’s get out there and knock’em dead. Be a comedian, slip on a banana pealing, make a funny face or at the very least acknowledge a stranger with a smile and a greeting. Who knows, you may make a new friend, maybe even a best friend or if you’re really lucky a bump-buddy. Remember: “The whole World is a stage.”