This past year I made a commitment to look UP more often. If you’ve been a follower of my blog you may remember that around this time last year I had a bit of an “a-ha” moment. I realized that I had been operating from a defensive place after my time in Romania. Prior to my time in Romania I had been someone who enjoyed connecting with strangers. I enjoyed that connection that is formed by simply paying attention to those around you. However in Romania, I faced a lot of harassment. This forced me to literally look down and try to not connect with others, as often times even eye contact was misinterpreted. After Romania, (without my awareness) I never turned that switch back on. My defense mechanism of appearing cold and indifferent became my baseline.
Well I’m happy to report that since my realization last year, I am getting back on track. Sometimes I need to remind myself to connect but mostly, I recognize myself again.
My bodega man knows me by name, and I know his name. It’s Charlie. In fact, we bonded a couple of weekends ago, after an elderly lady fell outside of his bodega. I sat with her while he called an ambulance. It was Easter and she was a little drunk. She kept kissing my hand calling me an angel. All I was doing was sitting with her, yet her gratitude was overflowing. She told me she lived alone and was lonely. She was from Russia and had no family here. I just let her talk and listened. After she left by ambulance, Charlie and I talked about how many people have trouble around the holidays which often leads to excessive drinking. He had no judgment while we talked, only empathy for his customers and neighbors. He told me that as sad as it was that the woman had fell, he believed it had been a better day for her because she had connected to humans. She had been SEEN. Wow.
What’s my point? We need connection. These tiny little connections here and there, add up. We may not always see their impact right off the bat, and we may also not know the impact it has on the people we are connecting with. But the eventual impact is undeniably positive. It can give us more empathy for others. It can lift us out of a dark moment. It can remind us there is power in human connection.
This doesn’t mean we have to be a therapist to everyone we meet, but instead just attempt a small connection. Giving our attention to those who feel forgotten should be our mission.
I encourage you to take out your earbuds, get off your phone, look up and acknowledge those around you. You have no idea what impact you may have on someone simply by acknowledging them. Additionally this can also do sooo much for you. Believe me. On the days where life feels overwhelming or hopeless, be extra vigilant in your “connection mission.”
There is ecstasy in paying attention. -Anne Lamott
Take care of YOU.