Lately I have been reading a lot about how people are losing their connections to others and there is an epidemic of loneliness among men and women. It’s ironic since we have created a world where social media has led us to believe that we have a plethora of friends to whom we can connect instantly regardless of where they are in the world. My take on all of this is that we have forgotten the simple basics of human interaction. We need to look up when we walk and smile at the strangers passing by. Start a conversation with a stranger at the bus stop or in the grocery store line up. Perhaps it may feel like an awkward thing to do but it works!
For one, I have stopped holding back. When I see someone that is wearing something I like, I ask them where they got it and guess what? They respond, and we sometimes have a great chat. Also, the person is left feeling great about the way they look and sometimes that can make their day. If the grocery line up is taking too long because the person at the front has decided to only buy items with no prices on them, commiserate with the person next to you. You’re frustrated and so are they. Sometimes just breaking the ice can lead to a funny conversation that makes that stretch of frustration fly by.
Smile! We have gotten into the habit of looking down and avoiding eye contact. How sad is that? For the past few years I have made a point of looking around as I walk and giving people a soft smile as our glances cross. Most people respond with a smile as well. You end up feeling great when they do. I even have had a couple of instances where people have thanked me. For example, I walked into a Tim Hortons one day and smiled as I passed the people that were seated and made my way to the line up for my afternoon pick me up. I got my coffee and donut and grabbed a seat and proceeded to check out my social media on my tablet. After a couple of minutes, I was approached by an elderly man that had been sitting with his wife at a booth. He said,” I just wanted to thank you for smiling at us when you walked in”. At first, I was taken aback. It seemed a bit bizarre that I was being thanked for doing something so basic that I didn’t really put any conscious thought to. He continued to say, “Nobody ever smiles anymore, and it really was nice and you made our day.” How lovely and tragic at the same time. Lovely because I was happy that they were happy by something that took no effort or money on my part. Tragic because this is an elderly couple that have lived about three quarters of a century to be left feeling invisible in society. What effort does a smile take? None, but the rewards can be huge for some.
This human disconnect is not only an issue among strangers but also in our homes with our children, partners, friends and parents. We sit on the same couch with our devices and can spend an hour without a word or looking at each other. I have seen couples on a date night, out for dinner, that sit across from each other and take out their phones and stare at them without a word being spoken. What happened to talking, discussing your day, your thoughts, your future? As a wedding minister, I find so many couples are dolled up and set to walk down the aisle but they haven’t discussed name changes and sometimes if they even want to have kids! We need to talk. We need to cuddle on couches and hold hands when we sit across form each other at a restaurant on a date. You need to discuss the future and be present in the now. Life is too short to allow technology and trends in society to make us disconnect from each other, to be lonely and wake up one day wondering “What happened?”. Don’t save your smiles for selfies, share them with everyone.