Friday, September 29, 2006

Look Them In The Eye And Smile

I haven't posted here in ages...though I read the posting regularly. Bad, bad blog sister. But I've written something that I wish to share. Forgive me if I've overstepped.

For me, it started sometime in the mid 90s. A woman had been abducted from Parmatown Mall, raped and brutalized then murdered. Our local Karate studio.. the one right next door to my gym.. offered an all-day Saturday class for women of self-defense.

The biggest tip I learned: when you are walking anywhere, look each person you pass or see in the eye and smile. It's a way to remember their faces, and it can discourage a small-time thug from choosing you as a victim.

I've made this tip part of myself. When I am out and about, I look people in the eye and smile. Last year I wrote "The Culture of the Path":

There is a walking path in my town that runs the length of the street (about 2.5 miles). It is used daily.. and all day long.

BUT, most of the travelers practice a uniquely charming habit that has never been formalized. It's a variation on the standard practice of nodding when you pass someone on a p

The first time you approach a fellow traveler each person
1. makes eye contact, smiles, then
2. says "good morning/afternoon/evening".

and here's the really unique part:
because most of us walk part way up the path, then turn around and return to our cars, we often pass some of the same people a second time. and the common practice here changes:

1. make eye contact and smile again...
2. say "have a good day, now".

It's a very subtle way of acknowledging all around that "I see you, and though I've seen you and greeted you earlier today, I will likely not see you again today."

Simple. But a whole lot of sub-text exists in these phrases. And a lot of respect.

Now all but the dullest reader will see that travelling a path is an easy allegory for moving through life... How many different ways do we pass by each other?

In real life... driving on the freeways, standing in line at a store, sitting at nearby tables in the coffeeshop. Online, we might be reading blogs, making comments, reading the same mailing list. We interact in casual ways in all these situations.

All fraught with chances for misunderstandings... or ripe for finding commonality.

How can we as a SOCIETY develop habits/guidelines/methods of interaction that acknowledge each person in an inclusive way? How can we build a "community of the path" on every path in life?

Again, it demonstrated the importance to a society of looking each person in the eye and smiling.

These past three weeks I've spent time in a nursing home and time in assisted living. Many folks, to stave off boredom and loneliness, sit out in the hallways or in the lobby. Their affect is quite passive. So I again made it a point to look each one in the eye and smile as I passed them by. And like the culture of the path, I said "good morning/afternoon" to each.

Suddenly folks would sit up a little straighter; their was life in their eyes and looked once again like members of the human society. At the MILs hotel, they are beginning to recognize me; we have small interactions when I pass through.

So my suggestion for everyone along whatever path you find yourself travelling: make eye contact and smile.

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