It seems that too many people are developing a “mind your own business” mentality. The unwritten rules say: don’t look at anyone, don’t talk to anyone, don’t make eye contact, don’t touch the person next to you, and, under no circumstances should you ever smile at anyone you don’t know.
People are walking around like they are encased in their own protective bubble that prevents them from interacting with any portion of the world except the very specific parts with which they intend to interact. People have no idea who is waiting in the check-out line ahead of them or behind them. They don’t look at the checker or the bag boy. They probably don’t even see the kid out in the lot shagging the carts back to the store.
I understand that people developed these tactics to avoid hassling each other as our living quarters get closer and closer, but it has gotten ridiculous. Two people walking towards each other on the sidewalk wait until they are sufficiently close to each other and then they look down and away so as not to meet eyes with their fellow pedestrian, their neighbor, their fellow human being.
Okay, it is true that all this avoidance, may be saving the lives of one or two random people around the world who happen to not confront a crazy serial killer on the street. However, it is more likely that this behavior is cutting off millions of people from the tiny little joys that life affords us on an hourly basis.
In 2006, I trained for the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk (www.the3day.org) and I walked about 3 miles to work every day. I took the opportunity to look at my surroundings, at my fellow human beings, and at the sky. I cannot begin to tell you how very satisfying that is.
In just one day, I spotted a turtle living in the decorative pond surrounding an apartment complex’s marquis. I passed a man walking his dog and spoke to him about the Breast Cancer 3-Day. I got a chance to pet his very friendly and adorable pit bull. I faced, and overcame, a fear I had about pit bulls. The guy pulled a dollar out of his pocket and handed it to me on the street. I saw a dead bird, probably a baby. I jumped in a puddle. I watched the sun rise. I said, “Hello” to a woman I saw yesterday, in the same clothes, likely homeless. Actually, come to think of it, she said, “Hi” to me first, so perhaps my frequent walking has granted me ‘neighbor’ status in her eyes. I picked up about 30 discarded drink cups from fast food restaurants and put them into the trash cans they were laying tens of feet from. I marveled at a bicyclist who was stopped, balanced on two wheels, without putting his feet down, at a red light and I told him so. He smiled broadly. I waved to strangers who waved back, gave the peace sign, honked, and smiled. I nodded to people who yielded the right of way to me as I crossed their paths. I felt connected to at least 20-30 people that day in the hour it took me to get to work.
I could have just looked down the whole way and pretended none of that stuff was out there, but what fun is that? Sure, I wouldn’t have seen the dead bird, but I wouldn’t have seen anything else, either, and the breast cancer foundation wouldn’t be a dollar closer to finding the cure for something killing our grandmothers, mothers, wives, sisters, and friends.
Today, spend some time outside of your bubble, connecting with people. It’s not as dangerous as ‘they’ would have you believe.