Really. I mean it.
We often forget this is fundamentally true, and are too often reminded of our weaknesses, not our strengths, as humans. But it is my consistent experience that generally people are good, they mean well, and try to do the best they can for themselves and others.
We can feel so discouraged or disappointed at times in what we see in the world around us, and alas, any such sense of pessimism can be negatively reinforced from a variety of directions (not the least of which is the incessant barrage of bad news by media on a 24-hour cycle of filling digital formats of all kinds). It is important to take a step back, change the channel so to speak, and find opportunities and ways to remind ourselves of the fundamental good nature and openheartedness that is the bent of most people. Getting away from your ordinary routine and environment, changing the “incoming” signals, varying the stimuli, is a good way to do this. Good for the mind and good for the soul.
In my travels I am struck by how willing just about everyone is to engage—especially if you smile and engage first. We are creatures with a desire to connect and to share. It is one of our best and distinguishing traits, essential to setting the stage for creative collaboration.
I recently spent a couple of weeks in France, where it is the custom upon entering a shop to say hello and exchange greetings, no matter who you are, and if you don’t it is considered rude. In Provence it is typical when passing another person on the street to say “Bonjour”—just because you are passing them, not because you know them. I got to thinking about this after observing it repeatedly. Greeting is such a simple gesture—with such great impact: a greeting makes a connection both consciously with the mind and voice, face and body language, but it is more—it is an initial extension of self, and an acknowledgment to another of the sovereignty of his or her self. And thus it is a connection of heart and soul as well. And think about this—it is much easier to greet with a smile than to greet without smiling! From this momentary contact it comes naturally to then expand simple human connection.
I speak with all kinds of people, in person, often never even exchanging names, but engaging delightfully with interesting and friendly individuals, all perfectly willing to open up and extend themselves with the least little encouragement. And this exchange is mutually restorative. I feel sure it makes for a happier, healthier and longer life!
Are we losing this form of ordinary communion? Are we too guarded to be friendly? Do our smart phones, smart pads, computers and other electronic tools steal us away from each other? Are we losing some of the important gifts of incarnation as we fall out of the custom and practice of direct human contact—voice to voice, eye to eye, shared fields? I am worried about it.
We have it in us to be masterful connectors, indeed, it is our great aptitude, the very heart of our humanness. We have all the tools; we just need to know how to allocate our considerable resources. How can we use our technology to support our human relation, rather than diminish it, and where do we strike the balance?
It is up to each of us individually to take responsibility for consciously and deliberately making and maintaining human connections. Somehow, sometimes, we forget this and we start to take personal engagement for granted, we are distracted or busy, and we start to fall out of vital contact. We must make special efforts to find ways to engage with each other, especially in person, because we don’t realize how much we are losing and how quickly we are losing it as we become more burdened by the business of life–and more and more tethered to our digital devices.
I often write about how we are what we need. And we are. The most important networks are our own inner and inter-human spiritual, emotional, mental and physical connections. There is pure pleasure in engaging with another person in even the most simple contact: it lights up the circuits of the brain and heart, it makes us feel fuller, more connected to something bigger than us, whole, it instills faith and hope, it requires smiling, and is downright therapeutic. On many levels, personal and societal.
Try it. You’ll like it.