Compassionate. Sensitive. Sappy. You might even call me ‘highly empathetic’. Truth is, I just cry way too [understatement] easily.
I’m a big ass cry baby.
I cry every time I go to the Farmer’s Market [I have this weird affection for small businesses who make products that add a little more good to the world].
I cry at the thought of my dog potentially not living forever, although we’re working on her overcoming those odds.
I cry when Simba’s Dad gets the axe [Scar, you lion bastard] or any unnecessary Disney parental death.
I cry when I see elderly folks eating alone.
I cry whenever I see that commercial of surveillance cameras catching people doing nice stuff.
I cry when my Mom cries or my client cries or a total stranger cries.
And I’m still living down the time I sobbed saying bye to the hotel workers in Cambodia [Hey, they were some great damn workers].
Basically, I cry a shit ton.
So cut to Saturday night when I was in a cab [looking dapper I might add] and ready to tear up the town for a friend’s birthday. We were stopped at a light under a viaduct and I looked out the window to see a homeless woman — lying on her back on the cement and covered by a too tiny blanket. And while I usually obsess over how hungry or cold she must be, I thought: God, she must be so lonely [cue waterworks. praise waterproof mascara]. No one caring, or even asking, about her day. Acknowledging her humanness in the world.
That thought rattled through me for days; causing me to cry on two separate occasions, as I recounted the event to my husband and he stared blankly back.
And if you say “well, most homeless people are mentally ill…she might not even realize she’s lonely”, I might hunt you down and slap the ignorance right out of you.
Mentally ill doesn’t make you invisible or the Tin Man. She’s a person like you or I, my dear — and if you take a gander at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you’ll find belonging and community near the base of the pyramid for shit we can’t live without.
Because, really, people just want to be seen. Acknowledged. Not invisible.
And that goes for every last one of us.
Now I pride myself for being a super friendly, personable and welcoming, but I hadn’t even said a damn word to the cab driver, aside from “1500 block of Randolph. Take Lake Shore Drive. Thanks.” Because I walk around like a space cadet, too. Assuming the 95,000 [awesome] thoughts in my head are more important than the people and things happening around me. More important than asking how my cabbie’s night has been or if he’s ready for a big night of picking up over-served a-holes.
It’s the individualist epidemic. And it’s a pretty lonely disease.
Back in ’08, I spent significant time in South Africa and they have a greeting there, “Sawu Bona”, which literally means, “I see you.” It’s deeper meaning is that “I exist, because you are there”. And here’s why I love that phrase — because it acknowledges the interconnectedness between all people. That you’re worthy because you exist. That it’s an honor to see you as you are.
What do we got here? ’Sup or silence. Too busy to acknowledge other people in this world. Too busy to realize that may be the reason why we feel unacknowledged ourself.
Now, do you have to shake every hand and hug every stranger the world throws at ya? For God’s sake, don’t. Un-welcomed stranger fondling could — correction — WILL land you in prison. But a “Hi, how are you?” won’t kill you. Neither will a “How’s your day going?”. And I’m pretty sure you could survive a “Hey, killer boots man.” [Dumb and Dumber reference for you folks with an underdeveloped sense of humor.]
So since you understand your need to feel seen, here are a few ideas to help you start putting that lovin’ vibe out in the world:
- ACKNOWLEDGE someone’s best intentions. Unless you can crawl up in their mind and snoop the truth, don’t assume their intentions were to harm or do wrong in this world.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Feelings are never right or wrong — even if you don’t agree with them. You can’t argue with how I feel. Same goes for me.
- Do something kind without expecting something in return. [One time, the car ahead of me paid for my tolls. How cool is that?]
- Smile. And not that awkward closed-mouth, eyebrow-raised thing you do, but a real smile showcasing your pearly whites.
- Ask questions and really listen. “How are you feeling? Did you ace your test? How’s your family?” You get the drift.
- Look ‘em in the eyes. Eye contact is a pretty powerful way to acknowledge without saying a thing.
- Say “Hi”. To your cab driver, mailman or that homeless gal you pass every day.
Do you feel unseen? Unacknowledged? Why? How do you plan to get your head outta your backend and acknowledge people more?