Yesterday afternoon I ducked into a clothing & housewares store for a bit. I was looking for a dog bed, actually, but I ended up with an armful of clothes to try on. I approached the fitting room and there was a woman monitoring it, her job of course being to make sure no one tries to steal any clothes. She counts the clothes going in, and counts the clothes coming out.
“Hi,” she said, not making eye contact, but motioning for me to extended my arm so she could count the items I was carrying.
“Hi. How are you?” I asked.
“Tired,”she replied, sighing.
“Oh…it’s toward the end of your shift, I hope?” I said, sympathetically.
This seemed to catch her completely off guard…that I cared enough to continue the conversation about how she was doing.
“No, I have five hours to go,” she said.
“That’s okay. I don’t know why I am so tired.”
“Hang in there,” I said.
“I will, thanks.” She smiled.
How many times a day do we ask, or are we asked, “How are you?”
How often is it conveyed with a sense that the answer is of any significance?
This woman had probably exchanged the words, “How are you?” a hundred times already on her shift. Yet it seemed like a complete anomaly that I would actually listen to her response or ask a follow up question.
I am always polite, but I don’t always feel like chatting up strangers. I have always marveled at people who do this consistently. My friend, Monica, and my Uncle Ed come to mind when I think of this quality. Either of them could talk to anyone, anytime…and they have the ability to make people feel good everywhere they go.
They listen, they smile, they sympathize and crack jokes. They know how to connect, how to make people feel good. I admire them so much for this quality.
I have been trying more and more to exercise this muscle. Don’t misunderstand – I am not a rude person. I have always been polite and kind (I hope), but lately I have been making more of an effort to be more gregarious as I interact with people whom I don’t know (and may very well never cross paths with again) while out in the world.
It feels good...making eye contact and smiling at strangers as they pass, saying “How are you?” in such a way that the other person feels that I actually care to hear the response.
Why this sudden desire to connect?
There is so much negativity in the world right now.
So much pain.
So much divisiveness.
So much “Us vs Them”.
So much stress.
It seems more important than ever to propagate the feeling that we are all connected – that we all belong to one another.
One warm exchange may lead to another, and another…having a ripple effect of warmth and kindness in the world...just when we seem to need it most.
Anyway…it’s worth a try. Right?