Friendship, Respect and Tolerance =

HAPPINESS

I believe that respect for all people is an essential ingredient in a happy life. When one shares friendship and respect freely with others, I believe it makes life even happier and more rewarding. It’s no surprise that Jesus spoke of loving one’s neighbor and treating others as you would have them treat you. I believe people who consistently show respect and good will to other people, especially to strangers, are less likely to judge people on factors like religion, race, skin color, political views and place of birth. Also, that those who do are more likely to become bigots, racists and extreme nationalists, which in turn can lead to hatred of people whom they judge to be inherently different or who have different values and views. That hatred may come from fear, real or imagined, that “other people” threaten one’s culture or way of life. But one should never take lightly the temptation to hate and should consider the potential effects on one’s self as well as untended consequences.

During the first few years of my retirement I took 10 ocean cruises, and I made a point on every cruise to engage all kinds of strangers, in friendly conversation. That nearly always led to pleasant exchanges and feelings of good will. Because of those conversations and because I had a ponytail which made me easy to spot, by the end of a cruise lots of travelers would call out from somewhere across the ship with greetings like “hello pony-tail” or there goes pony-tail.” Because of those experiences, it would be difficult to hate, or even dislike any of those travelers, many of whom differ from me in significant ways.

I try to do the following at least once every few days I walk up to one , (sometimes two) strangers and say the following: “I hope you are having a good day and hope that I’m neither the first or last to tell you that today. Almost without exception frowns turn into smiles and smiles into wider smiles. What usually follows is a warm friendly exchange -maybe even a nice chat. Yesterday, I had two such encounters in a local shopping mall: the first was with an elderly gentleman who was navigating a large cart through shoppers and who appeared to be a little down on his luck. My introduction brought a wide grin, and as I walked away after our chat, he waved me good-bye and thanked me for making him feel better. The second encounter was with a couple that was relaxing in a rest area. At first the couple seemed to resist distraction or intrusion, but quickly warmed up to a 20-minute conversation during which the man and his wife competed with each other to tell me more than I needed to know about their long, loving relationships with their pets, a cat and dog.

In summary, an open-minded attitude toward everyone, including strangers, engenders friendship and respect, which in turn, makes for a happier and more rewarding life. Creating friendships with all manner of people makes it less likely that one will be become bigoted, racist or an extreme nationalist. Getting to know strangers and having a friendly and respectful relationship with them will reduce the likelihood that you ever become resentful or hate them – just because they are inherently different or have different views and values.

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