Friday, May 31, 2013

Hi! How are you today?

Just a few days ago I would have considered myself a very cordial person. Well... My work at an independent living facility has proved me otherwise. I am rude! Not only am I rude, but my whole generation is rude! Heck, I'm almost willing to expand that to society, I'm coming to realize and understand the effects that social media is having on us. We don't know how to INTERact with each other anymore, we have instead shifted to a society who REacts to others actions. Our human connections are dying.

This isn't an epiphany to me, but I thought for some reason that because I am able to see the change happening that I was somehow immune to it, I didn't realize how wrong I was. My first day on the job I walked to my office in what I consider my usual polite fashion. Immediately I found myself slowed down by a cluster of elderly men and women pushing their walkers down the hall. There was no way to move past them quickly without turning them all into bowling pins and becoming a bowling ball. I glanced at my watch and realized I had but only a few minutes to make it to the office before I was late. I felt frustration begin to raise but before it could truly take hold something inside of me told me to stop and notice how none of the molasses slow residents showed any signs of frustration or stress and were all very... Happy. Of course my "ego brain" quickly countered that part of that may be due to dementia.. But I decided to pause anyways and remind myself to live in the moment and I'll get to the office when I get to the office. So I slowed my pace and began to slowly make my way to the office.

As I made my way I began to notice that every resident I passed stared at me with an awkward expression and soon I heard voices being thrown my direction. I found myself in state of confusion and just tried to avoid eye contact. I remained that way until I realized that the stares and awkward expressions was actually the residents smiling at me and the voices.... were them saying "Hi, how are you?"... Then I found myself even MORE confused. Every single resident I passed was doing this!  Making my mouth form an equally cordial reciprocal response seemed foreign and odd and weirdly uncomfortable. I felt overwhelmed at first as if I wanted to hide or take some secret route so that I didn't have to greet another single  person. In fact when I made it to the office I tried not to leave it again for that very reason. It took me a few days to actually acclimate to INTERacting with people. Not only did I realize that this was a way of life for them, but that they expected it and needed it and thrived off of it... And they were happy. 

It made me ask myself, when did we forget how to say hello? Why have we forgotten how to wish a passing stranger a good day? Why has it become strange to engage in small talk with someone we just met?  Why have we adopted the norm of keeping our heads down and avoiding eye contact and move through society as separate satellite entities absorbed and only concerned with our own orbits. Whatever the answers, it's unfortunate we have moved in this direction. I think before we shifted from interacting with each other, our interactions allowed us to care for one another and our fellow strangers, producing a higher lever of social consciousness and compassion. Now, with the new shift of reacting to others actions we only see that delicate social consciousness and compassion only in times of great tragedies, which is sad. I'm not sure how to reverse these changes in society and I'm certain it's probably impossible. But next time just remind yourself to slow down and try to say hello to a passing stranger. Willingly Interact with someone you don't know!