I almost always run in the morning with a Good Day Sunshine start to my day. On some days, if I get an early start, I will see no one on the trail. On other days, I will encounter my regular group of strangers that have a similar walking, running or biking route to me and I see all the time. This is a public access community trail and I also see a lot of new strangers as well. What I find fascinating (enough to write a blog about), is the spectrum of social skills when I encounter people especially in the close proximity of this winding trail. In fact, I believe there is a Murphy's Law of trail running, as it seems you're most likely to encounter an oncoming person (usually with their dog) at the narrowest parts of the path.
So, using my greeting skills, I initiate a hardy, "Good morning", "Hello", "Hi" (at least 90% of the time). To my regular trail pedestrians, I sometimes throw in a "Howdy" or something like, "Hey, isn't this just a great day!" I would say that people respond back, roughly 80% of the time. So one day, I decided to add a couple of visual prompts to my greeting by also waving "hi" coupled with a big smile. Over time, this has raised the percentage of non responses to now most people giving a verbal response or at least, a parroting hand wave back.
This past week was typical. I said to a couple of regulars I see every week on their daily walk, "Stay cool" (as temperatures are getting in the 90's here), this was followed by.....crickets. Then, about a mile up the trail, a woman initiates, "Good Morning" with a wave and big smile. I happily respond back, but the smile stays on my face for several more seconds as we pass. She has that morning sunshine beaming in her and she beamed it right at me, simply wonderful.
You see, we're having fun being on this trail, enjoying life with some of the best weather on earth (in San Diego). But often and I mean often, I encounter disengaged, grumpy, too busy to look away from their phone people, or the classic straight ahead stare of avoidance with the oncoming me in their path.
Now I'm not going to ever be remembered as starting world peace here, but I think it's important to express a positive attitude when encountering strangers, even if the result is- it makes only me feel positive in that moment. But just maybe in my dirt travels, I snapped a few people out of their funk. Maybe someone is taking a walk to get out of a funk and suddenly a welcoming Mr. Sun just runs by. I know, no big deal. But in our current times where intolerance is making an overt cultural comeback, we need to employ the power of kindness and respect to one another. The power of "Good morning" is the power of the sun as the two dance together in a simple exchange to connect with people on the human highway.
On three occasions on the trail, I've stopped one of my regular strangers and introduced myself. When we now see each other, we stop and talk for a couple minutes just to ask each other, "How ya been?" I now have three people who have moved up from the regular stranger category to the, "Good Morning Tony", "Good Morning Martin" and "Good Morning John" acquaintance status.
The first video below is a Ted Talk by Ali Ghambara. I meet Ali through my buddy Bill DeVoe on Cherry St. (outside of Ali's coffeehouse) in downtown Seattle on one fine morning this past spring. He greeted us with an enthusiastic, "Good morning" and we all had a brief street conversation together. I still remember his body language and hand shake expressing that it was good to meet and connect, he meant it.
Hope you can take the time to listen to Ali's talk and then listen to my Transcendental Good Morning Playlist, it is guaranteed to start your Monday off on a positive note.
side note - Sun King translation