For those of us who tend to be naturally more reserved or shy, the thought of speaking first to anyone can be daunting. "What if I say something stupid?" "I can't think of the words to say." "What will they think of me?" See where the focus is? It's on "me". What if your goal was to make the other person feel better about who they are just because they've been in your presence? This has become one of my life goals. Not because of how great I am, but because someone noticed them.
This was taught to me by my grandpa, who would visit the major Brisbane hospitals, chatting to those who didn't have visitors or whomever he could, for years.
He had a great respect for nurses and hospital staff after his own experiences as a patient with them during WWI. After his service in WWII, and up until the month before his death a few
weeks shy of 94 years young, he was still visiting the Princess Alexandra Hospital weekly into his 90's. During my hospital-based Registered Nurse's training, he would come and watch me work. See how I interacted with my patients. And sometimes he would comment on what he saw. Once, when he could see I was becoming frustrated and a bit 'short' in my responses, he asked me "Do you love your patients?" Oh my. He taught me about caring for people, long before 'holistic health' was a widely accepted idea. Grampa Toby was teaching me to ask questions, get to know who they were, not just see the broken, maybe demanding person in the bed.
He said "Ask them about themselves." And I did. I learned the art of taking interest in someone else. I learned to get my eyes off of myself, and onto them as a whole person. And it changed my life. I saw closed people open up. I saw hurting people allow themselves to be helped. I saw hearts soften and minds become a little more receptive. As the ancient writer said, Kind words really are sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Proverbs 16:24).
By getting to know a person beyond your isolated moment of contact, it says to them "I see that you are more than your problems/difficulties."
"But," you say, "that would take so much time and I'm busy. I'd never get anything done." What is most important? Obviously there is a time to be focused on the task at hand. However, when people look back from the closing of their lives, it's not common to hear that their last words were about wishing they had worked just a few more overtime shifts.
It does cost to see people. It costs our own inward focus. It costs our comfort sometimes, because sometimes people don't react well. And that's ok. The point is letting people know they are not invisible; that someone recognises that they have got out of bed this morning and showed up for another day of life.
I'm not one of those people I've seen at the gym who kind of wanders around and chats to a lot of people (unless our friends are there), but going regularly I've begun to see the same faces who are there around the same time I am. And I've got to know the ladies in the office, and the personal trainers there through some of the Life Coaching and presentations I've done there, so there's always someone to wave hello to, if not stop and have a little catch up. That few seconds of "I've been seen. Someone knows I'm here" has been one of the things that keeps me going, since I don't really enjoy exercising all that much.
It doesn't have to be a full-on conversation. It can be just a nod or a smile. Just something that says "Yep, there you are. I see you".
With so much sadness and isolation in our communities, what would happen if we made a conscious effort to truly SEE people? What is it like to be truly SEEN? A teen-age girl complimented me on my shoes in a grocery store last year. She has it. And so does the client from the doctor's office who only knew me as the receptionist all those years ago still will say 'hello' when she sees me. It makes my day. Such simple things. And yet they can make such a difference to a hurting, lonely or just busy heart.
We are in this life together. We affect each other far more than we realize. When our souls bump up against someone else's as we pass them in the grocery store, is it really too difficult to leave them in a better, more positive state than before you came along, just with a smile? And if it is, there is work to be done in your own heart, dear one, that only you can begin. Whatever is on the inside of a cup will spill out when it is bumped. So ensure that what is most filling who you are is good, positive, uplifting and peaceful. Whatever you choose to carry in the cup of your being is what will spill out onto others. It's your choice what you hold onto. It's your choice what you get rid of and what you replace it with, for your own sake and that of those around you. You've got this!