A behavior that usually happens in areas with many persons in which we look down or seem too busy so that we don’t have to acknowledge the existence of others or look in their direction because we might actually have to say, “Hello.”
At first, we may not actually see the dehumanizing effect that this behavior, we have all accepted as normal, has on each other. But I ask all of us to pause for a moment and consider the fact that human beings, who were made to relate to each other and share life in families, communities, and nations; pass each other in various arenas without acknowledging each other’s presence. What has happened to us?
If we can veer into a different but related topic for a moment and talk about the world of non-verbal communication, one of the things that we teach in classrooms throughout the country is that when the eyes are pointed down and there is a lack of eye contact, this usually is a sign of lacking confidence. When a person moves away from you in some sort of way, that is a sign of being uncomfortable. When a person is on their cell phones with earbuds or “Beats” in their ears, that’s a sign of being present in a different world than the one they are walking in currently. But seriously, just from a communication perspective, what are we communicating about ourselves and the value we place upon others when we do not acknowledge someone’s presence who shares the same space as we do? We are providing a negative portrait of both us and them…and therefore the relational distance between two human beings gets wider.
And maybe we like it that way because I can think of several reasons to be fearful of random interactions with other people. First, the other person may try to hurt or harm me, which is perpetuated in every way possible—especially among young women who find themselves vulnerable in certain situations. Second, maybe I don’t know what to say to other people and think it is awkward to talk to others. Third, I don’t want them to think I am hitting on them or have them think I am creepy for saying, “hello,” and so I choose to not engage.
The flip side of that coin is that every relationship you ever had, beside mom and dad and family, has started out as some sort of interaction, perhaps even awkward, between you and a stranger at the time…even if that other person was a peer. While there is always a threat level to consider, I think most environments that we put ourselves in are safe places to talk, acknowledge someone’s presence, and have some sort of kind interaction. Ironically, I find that the places where young people are the most social also tend to be the places of greatest risk, take for examples the bar or the club…both designed to heighten passions while dulling the senses in a usually dark environment and usually at the end of the day into the nighttime. But I know I’m a fuddy-duddy, middle-aged dad! Speaking of which, I have found the shift from “friendly” to “creepy” to be very interesting in that when I say hello to someone, I have been told that I was friendly and I have been told that my saying hello was creepy…and what I have discovered is that to be friendly in this interestingly disconnecting culture is to endure being possibly considered “creepy” because they are synonymous.
So, how can we save the world one creepy “Hello” at a time? Well, don’t buy into a culture that is increasingly connected through mediations while feeling increasingly alone. Connect to persons that you share space with and teach your kids to power down their devises and power up their conversations. We need to learn to listen to and to dialogue with others. Connection is not just a “Hello” but the insightful questions and conversation that happens afterwards as well. And perhaps the biggest thing I think each of us can do, smile and be friendly with folks. It communicates something about you…it communicates to the other their importance…it restores a connection in the human spirit that needs repaired.
I’m not even going to get started on handshakes, hugs, and fist-bumps…so practice as you see fit!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.