I have just returned from a lovely walk along the beautiful Swan River foreshore near my home. It’s Sunday morning, with bright sunshine and lots of people taking advantage of the beginning of Spring and the warmer weather to walk with their dogs.
My two little dogs firmly believe that the foreshore is their territory. They bark with excitement, sniff all newcomers and play with their familiar furry friends. The regular walkers all acknowledge each other with a smile and a greeting before moving on. And most of we same regulars also greet those we don’t recognise with some sort of acknowledgement.
And so it was today when I walked and smiled and said “good morning” to a solitary and unfamiliar walker. He stopped and said “thanks…that’s nice of you”. I must have looked puzzled, because he added “You know, in Sydney no one walking in my area even makes eye contact any more”. It reminded me of the walks I have taken myself in Sydney, mainly around the Eastern Suburbs and noticed that people don’t acknowledge each other at all. Fear of strangers perhaps, or just too busy or in too much of a hurry? For whatever reason, it’s true.
I’ve lived in large cities and small cities, both here in Australia and abroad. And certainly the comfortable personal isolation that seems more prevalent in larger cities is not as obvious in the smaller ones. Perhaps it is the pace of life, the necessity to be so “busy” that the pleasure of greeting even with a smile is a distraction.
In speaking with a dear girlfriend of mine who lives on the Gold Coast, she mentioned that people there do tend to greet each other, but she also made a valid point that perhaps it’s the community of early morning walkers, who do get to know one another. Certainly the pace of life is slower and more relaxed.
Whatever the reasons, I think we should acknowledge our fellow walkers. With our lives so increasingly dictated to by the electronic media, where eye contact is an unknown quotient, the ability to say “hi” invariably leads to a feeling of wellbeing…if not a quiet inner smile.