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Thursday, January 07, 2010

An Experiment in Friendliness

So yesterday I walked the 20 minutes to the mall. I could have taken the train the two stops but the thought of lugging the stroller up the stairs at the station WITH Bean in it was too much (our elevator is under repair until Saturday- three whole weeks of no access). Besides, I needed the exercise- I always need the exercise. I went to the mall to see if the Wii Fit was in yet. It was not. My Mom suggested calling first, but that would have derailed the whole getting out of the house bit. Still, I was saddened that I still have no Wii Fit. (sigh)

A friend of mine met me there with her little boy in tow. He's five days younger than Bean. We walked around for awhile, feed the babies and then I was tired and decided to head home. Bean was having a hard time sleeping and I knew she needed her crib right about then.

As I walked home (I forgot my bus tickets- oops!) I encountered a lot of people. I was thinking about how isolating it can be to just exist in the world and shut away everything. We are on our cell phones, talking and texting. We walk down the street with our iPods on, listening to great music, yes, but shutting out the world around us too. I've been guilty of this many many times.
I also considered how rarely I made eye contact with people when I go for walks. So I wondered what would happen if I actually forced myself to make eye contact; and smiled even.

And that's what I did.

And you know what? As I always remind myself, people can surprise you. For the most part, simply making eye contact and nodding at people, or smiling, resulting in a connection. Often people smiled at me back, or at least acknowledged my existence. Of course there were those that didn't respond but it was rare that someone would catch my eye contact and quickly avert their eyes.

How refreshing.

So give it a try the next time you're out. Make eye contact with the random strangers you encounter. See what happens. You may be surprised; and you get that warm gushy feeling inside too. No kidding!


areyoukiddingme said...

That's really funny - I grew up in Chicago, so I have the big city, disinterested, middle distance stare down pat when I don't wish to acknowledge that there is anyone else on earth. But, I've been living in small towns for 9 years now, and I find myself being much more friendly when I go home - saying hi to people when I'm out walking around my mom's or sister's neighborhoods. I just laugh when people look at me like I'm crazy! But they usually smile and say hi back.

IF Optimist, then... said...

I give you the fabulous citizen of the earth award today for your great outlook! I love when we go on hikes and folks always pass and say "hi" or "beautiful day." I'm kind of dorky like that. :-)

Quiet Dreams said...

I tend to say "hi" a lot to people and smile. It's compulsive, I think.

JamieD said...

I am one who tends to look down when I walk. Not to be anti-social but I lean a little to the timid side. But I am going to take you up on your challenge! I really wish I could get over being so painfully shy.

Kristin said...

It does feel good, doesn't it? Be warned, once you start that, it is impossible to stop.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Good for you! Eye contact is something that is so important in connecting with others. It's something I am constantly working on with my staff... look at the people around you!

As an aside, before I met my Beloved, I read a very interesting book that focussed on this very thing (*cough* dating self help type book). The author challenged his readers to make eye contact with complete strangers... and it really is hard to do when you have spent so many years doing the exact opposite.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Btw... just got you in the back with a slush-ball! ;)