“Why are people so nice to you?”

I recently moved to a new neighborhood in Brooklyn and realized how few times there are in one’s life that we get to explore brand new places without ever having seen them before. So I’m soaking in every last corner of this new neighborhood before it becomes routine.

I found two new places that I love so far: a baseball field doubling as a dog park before 9AM and a French cafe. 

After a glorious morning at the dog park with Beezy on our first weekend in the new apartment, we stumbled upon a French cafe with a coffee window. There was an outdoor seating area on the sidewalk in front so I ordered a coffee and a crepe. The owner and I started chatting — I’m not one to always strike up a conversation with strangers but it would’ve been awkward not to say something since I was the only one around. He told me how he opened the cafe in the middle of Covid last summer but it’s been doing well. He also mentioned there was a backyard with heaters and that Beezy and I could sit back there if we’d like even though it’s usually not open this early. He opened the front doors and led us through the restaurant area which was perfectly decorated with deep jewel toned furniture and heavy drapes making it super cozy. The back had a beautiful white tent with turf grass and lights strung up on the sides. After a few minutes, the owner came back with my coffee and crepe and some chicken for Beezy. The food was delicious and the overall vibes were immaculate. I was already excited to be a regular at this place. 

The following weekend, Beezy and I stopped by the coffee window again after our morning at the park. This time there was a line so we stood back a bit and waited for our turn. While we were waiting a guy with his dog got in line behind us.  My dog does this thing when she sees other dogs where she lays down in submission and will not move until the other dog either approaches or leaves her line of sight. Beezy is 60 pounds and very stubborn so when she lays down I pretty much give up dragging her to avoid funny looks from strangers.

I turned to the guy with the dog behind me and told him he could go in front of us because Beezy was not going to move from her new spot. He protested for a moment but eventually went ahead and ordered. From the window, he turned around and asked what I was going to get. I wasn’t going to not let this man buy my morning coffee because I live in New York and a free coffee is always welcome. So I told him and he kindly told the barista and paid for my drink. I thanked him very much before he and his pup left because his drink was ready before mine. When I walked up to the window I saw the owner was the only one working like last weekend. He recognized me as he handed me the coffee. I asked him if it was actually all set and he told me it was taken care of. Then he proceeded to laugh and ask, “Why are people so nice to you?” I laughed, said I had no idea and that I’d see him later. 

The rest of the day I contemplated what the owner said when he gave me my drink. “Why are people so nice to you?” I don’t think people are out of their way nice to me but it got me thinking about the two encounters I’ve had with this cafe owner. Both times I went *very slightly* out my way to talk to strangers. 1) asking the owner about his cafe 2) telling the guy in line behind me that he could go ahead of us. These were not some wild actions that I expected to result in people being nice to me, but they were more than not doing/saying anything at all which is my default. I’m afraid my go-to personality around people I don’t know is usually indifference. It seems easier to stick to myself and not interact with people I don’t need to. I know this isn’t how everyone is — I have some of the most outgoing friends, and I envy the way they speak their minds and strike up conversations with everyone they meet. Now I’m beginning to realize it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other; instead, I can make a small change to choose kindness over indifference. I truly believe being nice and thoughtful is contagious, but I hadn’t given it much thought at all until the cafe owner pointed out that the couple times I had gone out of my way to be social, it had been immediately reciprocated — creating a sunnier day. If making a small comment or showing slight interest in someone else for two minutes has the ability to completely turn my day around — why would I not do this every chance I get?! So I’m working on being more kind and less indifferent to those around me. 

Besides, we’re still wearing masks so we have to use our voices instead of trusting that a friendly smile will do the trick!

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