Yesterday I had a rather profound realisation about who we are as the human race. And no, I’m not even talking about how humans have failed civilisation with war, rape, murder and terrorism and all the heinous crimes that set actual monsters apart from people. No, I’m talking about you and me, the ordinary “nice” people who are too busy to look up.
Yesterday, in a single moment my eyes were opened to the rather disturbing fact that we have become alarmingly disconnected as people. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it obviously, but it’s the first time it’s hit me in my gut. I call myself a blogger and a writer, someone who strives to connect with other moms through my words and experiences, yet I seldom make the time to connect with the women I come into contact with everyday. I, like many of you have become so good at getting through my day and keeping to myself that have forgotten what it’s like to engage with the world and be open to others.
I think (for the majority of us) we go through life with our blinkers on, constantly looking down, instead of looking up. We build walls, put up fences and put other people in boxes, instead of connecting with the world and the people in it. We have become self-sufficient islands, stuck in our own little worlds of comfort and routine, seldom reaching out to connect with the many people we come into contact with.
Maybe we get too busy and in the rush of life we forget to take a moment – a moment to say hello and engage with the person in the lift who we see going up to the 8th floor, the women who packs our groceries at our local P ‘n P, the lady who is sitting on her own in the park or like me, the women who is playing next to my own children in a sandpit.
Yesterday I sat playing with my kids at the play area at the aquarium (The best money I ever spent!) and next to me I noticed a women with her young son. For ages our kids played next to each other and there I sat going through emails and looking through my Facebook feed – the same boring Facebook feed I see everyday – following the same people’s lives through their social media posts. It’s crazy how you begin to feel like you know these people so well just by showing up to Facebook everyday. But what, for crying in a bucket, has happened to showing up in REAL life? What has happened to showing up in the real world of people and places and tangible objects? I mean really, never mind that we hardly see our friends as much as we should or would like to – What about showing up as a human being in our everyday existence, doing what humans were born to do : connect.
In my semi- present state I began to pick up that she had an accent and so I looked up and began to observe her more closely and the way she interacted with her child. In a single moment I felt inclined to talk to her and I asked her where she was from. That one question opened a door to her telling me about her whole life… about how she was born in Kenya and had lived in Florida for the last 13 years. She told me all about her Humanitarian work and how she met her husband, her family still living in Kenya and that her husband had been invited to a conference in SA so she decided to come with her son. (She was alone in a country she had never been before!)
We spoke about mothering our sons and the many challenges we face raising boys but agreed whole heartedly about how we intend to raise them – it was amazing to discover someone with the exact same values as mine – down to how we talk to our sons by telling them to look us in the eye when we are talking and saying “yes mom” to acknowledge what we have said. We seemed to be on the very same page about these matters and it made me want to reach out to her even more. We laughed and chatted lightheartedly too, but it was just such an amazing moment of feeling connected to another women who is on the same journey as I am. There we both were, separated by different cultures, from different countries, living worlds apart, but we connected as moms, as people.
Asking her that one little question, opened up the most wonderful conversation with a beautiful women I otherwise would not have met. Although we only chatted for 15 minutes, she took my number to call me next week. I told her we would take them for an afternoon of fun so we could carry on chatting while our boys played together. And while I really hope she calls, I also realise she may not. But opening myself up like that taught me such a big lesson – and so I am so grateful for her role in that.
I got home and told Brendon how I had met this lovely woman and we began to talk about how much we miss out on when we forget to look up and snap out of our preoccupied lives. How we forget to engage with people who we cross paths with everyday! And we both agreed how tragic it is. We make friends by being introduced through mutual friends or at social events, but we never take the time to reach out to strangers. Strangers who are only a handshake away from being a person with a name, an introduction away from being a lifelong friend.
We never know what’s going on in someone’s life too or how big an impact you reaching out may have on someone. Everyone is going through stuff and dealing with life’s demands, and many are experiencing pain and loneliness. But we as humans can offer each other support and a deeper sense of community and it starts by dropping our guards.
As the Human Race we can do better. We need to do better. We need to engage, open our hearts, observe, show interest, learn, embrace, reach out and connect.
We need to look up.