Casually connecting with other human beings always recharges my batteries, making me feel better about life. Stop smirking, because this is not about sexual contact. I am referring to those simple greetings and small talk that we exchange with strangers who happen along our daily paths.
When I make my weekly trip to the grocery store, I am drawn to the cashiers who engage in conversation. My favorite lady always asks how I am doing, and waits to hear my reply. We talk about the weather or some other general topic, chit -chatting for a few moments while she rings up my purchases. After our pleasant exchange, I go merrily on my way, feeling like a valued member of the community, energized and happy as I walk out to my car.
One week, she happened to be off. The employee who rang up my order was a pleasant enough young lady. She smiled and said, “How are you?” but she never made eye contact, so she did not seem interested in my answer. She then began talking with another cashier about something that was going on at school. I felt like a third wheel, left out and embarrassed to be eavesdropping on their conversation, even though they were not saying anything inappropriate. They were doing their jobs, and I was just a customer. I missed my usual interaction, and left the store feeling dejected and out of sorts.
When my children were young, I did my share of long afternoons waiting with a sick child in a pediatrician‘s office. Time dragged by as I tried not to worry about all the work that waited at home. Feeling impatient and isolated, I wondered why this was happening to me. One day, I looked around and realized that the room was full of mothers in the same boat. I smiled at the mom sitting across from me and made a comment about turning gray before the doctor ever saw my child. She laughed and said that the kids might actually be too old to go to a pediatrician by the time they got to see him. Suddenly, it all seemed a little easier to bear.We were not alone. We were part of something bigger than ourselves, even if it was the sisterhood of frazzled moms.
Our busy lives often leave us feeling isolated, and disconnected. We are creatures who crave validation. When we make connections with other humans, it is like plugging into a source of power. Electricity surges, our lights glow, and we see that we belong. I take comfort in that.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.