A few months ago, in my social justice class, my teacher told us that humans are social beings. It was a simple enough statement, but it got me thinking about the way people interact with each other. After some reflection, I have to come to believe that the relationships that we have with others are what makes our lives complete.
No two people are exactly alike. We have different skin colors, speak different languages, and practice different religions. Even my identical twin brothers have different hair cuts and enjoy different things. However, we are all humans, and that makes us all relatable.
What makes us especially unique from other animals is our ability to connect with each other. We form bonds with our parents when they hold our infant bodies to their chests, and from that point on we learn to create relationships.
Most people establish close friendships based on trust throughout their lives. These are the important relationships in life that keep us going when times are tough and help us enjoy ourselves even more when things are going well. However, we only have this type of intimacy with a very small fraction of humans.
We never actually learn anything about the vast majority of people we encounter every day. We may know that someone works at a local restaurant, or takes her two small children to the library every Saturday, but that is probably it. However, it is those strange people in our lives that have the ability to make this world a better place.
It was not until I went to Europe that I realized the importance of random acts of kindness in my life. I do not speak a word of French, so ordering food was always quite an adventure. Luckily, every time I was on the verge of a break down due to frustration with the language barrier, a stranger who spoke both French and English would come up and help me. Then this little hero in my life would just disappear back into the crowds.
Moments like this happen every day if we open our eyes and pay attention to what goes on around us. People hold doors for women pushing baby carriages and the elderly in wheel chairs. People pay the toll for the car behind them on a highway and give the person in front of them in line a few dollars so they are able to complete their purchase. People stop traffic to let other cars go or pedestrians cross the street. People cheer each other on in competition and donate their earnings to those less fortunate. Most of all, people will give up less than a second of their time to smile and say hello to someone else who, at that moment, needs it more than anything.
We often tell children to beware of strangers, as they can be dangerous. I believe it is time to start teaching these children that while it is important to be careful, it is equally important to be kind to those we don’t know and appreciate the kindness they give you.
Humans are very special in their ability to relate to each other, whether intimately or just in passing. This idea, for me, is what keeps the world spinning.
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