Actually it doesn’t hurt at all. For instance, this morning, I’m walking down Toronto street and a gentleman, approaching, smiles and says, “Good morning!” (I use the exclamation point here because that’s just the way he said it, like he was happy or something.) I smile and say in response (without the exclamation point), “Good morning,” and note that I was not injured in the least.
But then he stops. Well, that’s upping the ante. Walking by is rude, which I can’t bring myself to, so really the only thing you can do is stop. I stop.
He says, “Did you notice anything?” I say, “What do you mean?” He says, “You know, the reverie, those small seconds of unconscious reflection that accompany a greeting; that zen-ish moment within this most common of human encounters, where you’re lost but not lost, inside yourself and outside yourself at the same time, I mean, it doesn’t get more elemental; and consider the injection of good will into the universe, it doesn’t’ matter if you’re religious or a run-of-the-mill humanist, because it’s just these tiny unremarkable acts of human decency that the universe savours don’t you think? and consider what this does for this street, what it does for the grass sprouting through the fence here, or the soil in all these little backyard gardens, consider the sparrows, won’t they sing a little louder, and won’t they tell others? and what a chorus of sparrows that will be; consider the nieghbourhood, the community, the city, well you know where I’m going with this, right?” “I suppose,” I say.*
I carry on down Toronto street, meet a woman whose head is down, face firm for the day, and I interrupt her with, “Good morning!” and a smile, because it kind of comes with the greeting. I mean it’s possible not to smile when saying good morning, but it’s a chore and I’m mostly against chores. Anyway, if I hadn’t said good morning I wouldn’t have known how sweet a voice she had. One of those naturally musical voices, and I dearly hoped she sang in some choir, or at least sang with all these birds that I was noticing now, because the way her voice sounded when she smiled and returned a good morning, was like a full-throated chorus of song sparrows.
*The encounter with the gentleman is accurate at points, the rest is simply the way I remember it.>