Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

In my house, paper and pen always are nearby. I’m given to jotting down thoughts that I might use in my fiction work or in a blog post, and when those thoughts come, they go on the paper in whatever direction the paper is facing. The result, by the time I am ready to do something with the items, looks like a mind map, and sometimes the results are just as mysterious.

This morning, I spied one of these sheets of paper as I was eating my breakfast, and the following notation caught my eye:

People care, greet — far less stress and tension. How do you translate that?

I looked at the note, and pondered. What on earth induced me to jot that thought down? What did I mean by it, and what did I mean to make out of it?

After a minute or two of reading and re-reading the note, it came back to me. In my new home town, and I think “up north” in general, people are different, on the whole, than downstate. People are friendly. Every cashier has a minute to chat while you are checking out at a store. People you see out and about in the course of doing errands are about 80-90% likely to speak to you — either to initiate a greeting, or respond warmly if you are the first to greet. When they say, “How are you?” it usually comes with eye contact and you get this sense that they actually care. Now, in the past, unless I went into a place where I knew a lot of people, I could go through an entire week’s grocery shopping and errands without exchanging a warm word with a single soul. Sure, a cashier at Meijer might ask “How are you today?” but eye contact? Nope. Warmth? Ha. No, the greeting would be mechanical. And if I spoke first and smiled and asked “How are you today?” I’d likely get back “Good-n-you?” It’s all one word, hyphenated, with no inflection.

Up here in my new part of the world, the stress and tension seem to drop away. People are nicer, and the niceness is genuine. In my old part of the world, people rush and avoid eye contact and make mechanical greetings as a matter of form, and when you are out and about you can feel the stress and tension building all around.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. All of the people I know and love in the world are wonderful people, and I am not talking about those people. But I know that most of them, and I as well, would tend to behave that same tense, mechanical way when out in public, because we often tend to respond in like manner to what we encounter.

In my new up-north world, days go by in a warm cocoon of peaceful contentment, especially now that I’ve gotten through some of the adjustment to change and that frisson of anxiety I kept feeling has fallen away. I find myself looking forward to each thing I plan and do, because each thing is full of possibilities.

And so to the last part of the note: How do you translate that? Because frankly, downstate, in my own experience, people speak a language of stress and tension, and when I envision myself back in that milieu, I wonder how I might translate the language of peace and contentment in a way that might help others speak it.

What do you think? I would really love comments and discussion!

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