I had a picnic lunch with a friend the other day. You know, your typical picnic of miso soup, sushi, and Perrier water! Our conversation was as interesting as our lunch, covering ideas about what it means to be in community, to belong, and where/when we’ve experienced the greatest sense of belonging
Something my friend said has really stayed with me. In commenting on what it was like for him when he first moved to our town, he spoke about feeling unwelcome, like an outsider. Rather than being given eye contact and a smile, he noticed people looking away, avoiding eye contact. Rather than being approached with curiosity, he felt approached with judgment, as if he was being “summed up” based on what the other could see of him from the outside.
In another recent conversation, a client commented on how she allowed her busy-ness to keep her from making meaningful contact with others. She said that one day she realized that she was always in a hurry, which led her to be impatient…with the person walking too slowly in front of her or with the teen behind the register who was still learning his new job. She knew her impatience was felt by others, often creating an experience of judgment or criticism or not feeling cared for or accepted. The opposite of belonging.
With all the angst and disconnection happening in our world, this is such an important time for each of us to be mindful of what we create through our interactions. What am I creating, for myself and others, through the way I am relating, speaking, thinking?
Reflecting on the two conversations I related above, I’ve been asking myself “reality-checking” questions, such as:
“Why are you in such a hurry?” when I notice myself feeling impatient. “What would be gained by taking a breath and slowing down for a moment?”
“How might he/she be feeling as a result of my judgment?” when I become aware of my judgmental thoughts towards someone.
“What might shift – for me and for you – when I intentionally acknowledge that I see you, whether in the hall at the office, as I’m walking across a parking lot, or standing in line at the market?”
We have the power to foster feelings of belonging and connection everyday. Through simple practices we can send affirming messages to one another. A smile. Eye contact. Holding a door. Letting the other go first. Saying, “Hello” or “Have a great day” to ‘strangers.’ Actually, let’s stop believing in strangers. Isn’t it an interesting word we assign to those with whom we are unfamiliar, ‘strange?’ Hmmm. What if they are simply friends we have yet to know?Smile. Make eye contact. Let the other go first. There are no strangers. Click To Tweet
Let’s be the change once again, by getting intentional about boosting one another up, rather than beating one another down. And it would be incredibly useful to include oneself in that intention. Meaning, let’s be mindful to extend our own kindness and compassion to ourselves as well. We could sure use it! As can the world around us.
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