People, places and times

Published 11:36 am Saturday, April 19, 2014

by Clyde Johnson

Have you ever given serious thought to why people behave the way they do? Is human nature something that is innate or is it acquired through experiences received from our surroundings? Do we as humans have a desire to do what is right but are often swayed by the company we keep? Or, are we more likely to stay with our principles regardless of the influence of others?

I am of the opinion that most people basically have a good disposition. I formed this opinion as a result of experiences encountered during my morning walk. As my wife and walk during the morning hours I often wave to the occupants of each vehicle that passes. While this may seem utterly ridiculous, I get a very good response. About 90 percent of the occupants return the wave, some with a toot. I assume the 10 percent that did not respond were preoccupied with deep thoughts that consumed their attention at that time. Nine out of ten isn’t bad.

I had a most gratifying experience at the post office a few weeks ago. In an attempt to ensure that a letter got in the mail in a timely fashion, I ventured to take it to the post office and put it in the drop box on the inside. While standing there in dim lighting trying to make out the directions, I observed a senior lady about 30 feet from me near the far end of the post office. I was overwhelmed by her warmth and friendliness as she initiated a conversation. She approached me with her grayish-blond hair neatly accenting the light pigmentation of her skin, and said, “Let me help you, because this place does not have the best lighting.” She reached into her pocket book and took out a flashlight to help me see the instructions. After I dropped the letter we departed the post office discussing the unusual weather pattern we were experiencing. I thanked her for her kindness and wished her a good evening. We never did exchange names. What a lovely personality.

Recently I had an occasion that took me to a southern city in Georgia. One morning as my wife I sat in McDonald’s enjoying breakfast, I observed this senior gentleman sitting at a table across from us. He had thinning grayish blond hair and appeared to be physically challenged as he attempted to get up to take his tray to the trash disposal. I politely said, “Let me take that for you, sir.” That opened the flood gate for a conversation that lasted for about five minutes. Since listening is what I do best, I listened as he talked. He observed the South Africa hat that I was wearing and asked me if I saw Nelson Mandela while I was in Africa. I said no, but I did visit Robbins Island, the Nelson Mandela’s Museum and Mandela’s Square in Johannesburg. He went on to say that he was from West Virginia and was a graduate of Marshall University. He attended Marshall around the same time that Hal Greer did. Hal Greer was a black basketball player who played professionally for the Philadelphia 76ers back in the day. The gentleman deliberated on the racial issues that confronted Greer when he enrolled in Marshall University. However, these issues were resolved through the persistence of the Athletic Department, the school’s administration and Hal Greer’s talent as a basketball player. He said that Greer was among the top 50 basketball players from all the colleges and universities in the country to be drafted by the NBA upon graduating from college that particular year. As a result of all of this, a street in Huntington, W. Va., was named after him. Huntington is proud to have a street that bears the name of its native son, Hal Greer. We departed without knowing each other’s names. I thought it was a very enlightening conversation.

Have you ever approached a co-worker in the mall or some other public place, made eye contact only to have him look away as if he doesn’t see you. I wonder why.

I guess it all can be attributed to human nature.

CLYDE JOHNSON is a retired health physicist for the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He lives in Franklin, and can be contacted at 562-4402.