Friday, August 6, 2010

Look me in the Eye

I can't help but think that we are doing our kids a disservice by outfitting them with cell phones; blackberries and the "i" of the week. I say this because I recognize the many ways other people touch my life once simple eye contact has been made.

Looking someone in the eyes with a greeting of "Good morning" has led to new friendships; new customers (in my case); interesting stories; and a feeling of rightness in my community. The many people I pass on my morning walk, for instance, help me to feel connected. Whether we share a quick greeting or take the time to stop and chat, these people add context to my life.

I was raised in a large city and knew by instinct that I shouldn't make eye contact in elevators or at bus stops. It took a few years into adulthood, and living in a few small towns, to change that practice and I've never looked back. The people I meet and have random chats with add so much to my life, whether I see them daily, or once and never again.

I remember one day in the spring passing a group of young people waiting for their school bus. They were 14-17 years old and stood individually around the corner, each with their eyes on their electronics. Their postures said volumes but their silence said much more. If our teenagers aren't even connecting casually with each other, what will they miss in life? They seem to find a one-liner text from a friend more compelling than a live body standing beside them.

When I pass a young person on the street, I now greet them. Some are comfortable responding in kind; others shrink into themselves. Perhaps they'll share stories about the crazy lady who speaks to them. Maybe they'll pass on the greeting to the next person they meet.

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