As I strolled to Alternative Grounds this morning, I mused at the sweetness of being greeted with a quiet smile and “…morning.” by strangers as we passed each other. Some walking with purpose in their body language probably on their way to work, some ambling with a dog, some hand in hand with a partner.
My husband and his brother often talk fondly of their experience skiing in Austria decades ago, where strangers in the street always greeted them with: “Gruss Gott”. It charmed them so much, and they never forgot how it made them feel. Of course they’d grown up in Toronto, where generally people only spoke to folks they’d been “properly introduced” to – didn’t even make eye contact.
In Roncesvalles Village now, it’s a common occurrence to get a friendly hello, Hi, or good-morning from strangers. It’s a constant reminder of how little it takes to make one’s little world a better place. The friendliness is striking and people from other neighbourhoods notice it all the time.
As the autumn mornings get darker – still dark at 7 am today – it’s a way of stating as you are approaching a person that you have good will; it’s a kind of reassurance. And I am sure many a lonely, isolated “little old lady” feels warmed by this small gesture as well.
It also seems contagious. Our visitors from elsewhere comment on it all the time, and talk about doing the same when they go home. What a world it would be if this “went viral”…
Back down off Cloud 9, I think about the other reality in the neighbourhood. We’re a very good illustration of Toronto’s multiculturalism, and strolling down Roncesvalles Ave., the main street, many examples of inter-racial families and lifestyles are comfortably sprinkled among us. Most of us are very happy about this, as the ‘village’ is a neighbourhood that welcomes differences.
So it can be startling to enter a store and be greeted by coldness, or to have a neighbour who never speaks to anyone except those from her own country.
Not to mention the fact that it would seem counter-productive if you’re running a retail business. Presumably you want buyers to experience a pleasant transaction. But instead, for this small sub-group, it seems an occasion to express a patronizing superiority or even the appearance of hostility.
I suspect that often it’s actually just an extreme discomfort with English. And then within this sub-group, there is ‘the attitude’. What we used to call “holier than thou”. This group attend the very traditional R.C. church in the neighbourhood, and they are seen several days a week, dressed up, on their way to a mass. This group never participates in the neighbourhood social functions. And even with next door neighbours, never socialize — except with “their own”.
This steadily diminishing group which has been moving to the suburbs for years now, will no doubt eventually have zero impact on this overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming community. They’ll be irrelevant, along with this post, and yours truly. 🙂