With all the division that seems to have taken hold of our country during and since the election, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we interact with and relate to one another. Do we engage openly and honestly or do we avert our eyes, keep our heads down and pretend we don’t see and we are not seen? Or maybe we do engage, but it’s not honest or worse, we are hostile towards each other?
I recently read an article published in the New York Times about moving from feelings of isolation to feelings of intimacy. In her article, Michelle Fiordaliso describes longing for the touch of someone else. A car accident gives her the opportunity to connect with someone and her interactions provide perspective that intimacy doesn’t have to occur just between partners but can mean looking someone directly in the eye and smiling. It’s opening yourself up to others and valuing human interaction, no matter how brief.
I am an introvert by nature and I often struggle to not be exhausted by social interaction. To be completely honest, sometimes I actually see socializing as a negative in my life. However, the organization I work for is dynamic and my role requires frequent interaction with others. Moreover, a large part of our “workforce” are volunteers. Volunteers are such an integral part of our organization, that we truly would not exist without their help. Though I understand this on an intellectual level, I frequently find myself shying away from conversation with a new volunteer. Fiordaliso’s article highlighted for me the opportunity that I am missing when I bury myself at my desk or avert my eyes when walking past a coworker or volunteer. I miss the opportunity to connect, even briefly, with someone else – to be intimate and engage. I forgo the chance to share my gratitude for their assistance, to learn about who they are or just to smile and perhaps brighten their day.
My act of kindness is to be deliberate when engaging with others. Today, I struck up conversation with a new volunteer and learned that she is new in town and has yet to meet many people. I reassured her that opportunities exist and that we live in a friendly place where she’ll undoubtedly find a social network. While on a walk with the dogs this evening, I made it a point to look up and make eye contact and smile at others I passed on the street. Both experiences left me with a stronger feeling of connection and community. So whether you’re extroverted and this comes second nature to you, or you’re like me and this takes effort, I would encourage all of us to connect, to look each other in the eye, and to spread kindness.