The other day a memorable inspiration arrived via email from my sister in Milwaukee. Daily she receives little “bon mots” from the chaplain at her retirement home. And many times she forwards them. I devour them…..Here is one that captured my attention:
“Be the reason someone feels welcome, seen, heard, valued, loved and supported.”
Prescient sentiment in a brief statement.
How many of us consider the role we play in helping someone else feel important? How often do we take an extra minute or two to jot a note, a text or email, pick up the phone, or smile at a stranger? We do remember birthdays and special occasions, but do we go the extra mile and concentrate on how easily a simple word or action can impact someone else?
During these days of mandatory masks, it is hard to do. However, we CAN smile with our eyes!! Have you heard the term “smizing?” Clever euphemism…In other words, ”The eyes are the window to the soul.” Observe people in the grocery store, the pharmacy, gas station, or wherever. See if anyone s looks at you and attempts eye contact. I realized several months ago that whenever I was in my favorite Publix grocery store, most people concentrated on their shopping lists, keeping their heads down, gathering items on the shelves for the grocery cart. Covid threat requires that we focus on staying safe. Ordinary pleasantries take a back seat.
And speaking of “back seats,” consider a true story. The other day while cautiously driving through a local shopping plaza parking lot en route to the bank, a car pulled out in front of me. I braked to let the person leave. Suddenly, that car stopped, and the driver stared at me. Looking ahead, all around, it was obvious the man had ample room to move past my car. Instead he remained immutable for what felt like several minutes. Finally, I inched back a bit, and tried to wave him on his way. With a gusto of gas, the car pulled up beside me, a middle finger waving furiously and voice yelling obscenities. Unnerving, to say the least. Could honestly see no earthly reason for such an outburst…..For fear of driver’s additional reaction, I proceeded directly to the bank.
Truth be told, it felt as if this person’s rude behavior revealed the “underbelly” of our current society. Our city has been besieged all summer with violence, disruption, destruction and riots. And now, in the “suburbs” the lack of manners and civility showed its ugly face. How sad and unsettling. Also, the man did not wear a mask. His rage was palpable. To say I wondered why one person could become so inflamed over what was supposed to be a thoughtful and reasonable act fails me. Perhaps the months of Covid isolation and its personal impact has caused some people to become easily distraught. Who knows. Excuses are a dime a dozen, but they don’t usurp common decency.
People everywhere are experiencing challenges. Thankfully, many people are unchanged. When I had my hair cut and colored last week, I met a wonderful Colorado transplant and former owner of her own Denver beauty shop. She was assigned to me as my regular gal is on leave of absence. Within minutes, Gretchen and I clicked. Each of us was wearing our masks, with voices and eyes our only means of communicating. What a lovely gal. When I asked her why she and her husband and young daughter came to Richmond, she said, “We wanted a change.” Checking the USA map, they decided, “Oh, Richmond looks good.” So, two years ago, Gretchen sold her business, her teacher husband resigned his post, and the family of three moved to Virginia.
Why did we “click”? Firstly, I was captivated by her kindly blue eyes: genuine and sincere. Secondly, she and I discovered we each have loved ones with the same debilitating illness. Thirdly, her ability to communicate her values and beliefs resonated. Although we will likely vote for opposing candidates in the November election, she and I heartily agreed that something must happen to dispel rancor and lack of thoughtfulness so evident in our country today. As Gretchen remarked, “why can’t people be nicer to each other? Why can’t we sit down and have meaningful conversations with each other, regardless of our political party?” And my reply, “When I grew up, my father taught me that how anyone votes or worships is their business …so never discuss politics or religion in polite society!”
Gretchen and I are at least three decades apart In age. But in two hours, differences washed away. Being one of six children and growing up with parents devoted to each other, she was taught good manners, kindness and the Golden Rule. She told me she hopes to open her own shop so that she has more time to spend with her “tween age” daughter. “I can’t get these years back.” So true…. By the end of our lengthy session, she gave me her cell phone number as well as the BEST haircut I have had in many, many moons!! Lucky me…..plus….I emerged uplifted and happy as a clam!
Yes, eye contact matters. How many of us realize that the oft used metaphor,“The eyes are the window of the soul,” can be traced to Cicero, whose English translation of the Latin words are, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreters.” Since Cicero’s time many scholars or teachers have pondered the meaning of his words.
Searching online for the phrase, I learned that a pastor named Don Prisman expressed his thoughts about “making eye contact.” In his words, “This isn’t about whether the eyes in general are smiling or frowning, little crinkles at the corner indicating it’s a true smile not fake. Whether the pupils are dilated indicating recognition that occurs when two people who are self-aware become directly aware of the awareness of another…..To me, when the eyes click you’ve got the possibility for non-verbal soul to soul communication.”
Another thought is that “the eyes simply tell you about a person that their words might not…it’s just body language.” And yet another interpretation is “The meaning of the words is that by looking into the eyes of a person one can see their hidden emotions and attitudes and thoughts.”
How often have you heard people say words yet their eyes tell a different story? To me, when both convey the same message, only then is communication sympatico.
For several nights my husband and I have eagerly watched the excellent TV series The Crown featuring the British actress Claire Foy as the young Queen. Even before this article, I became mesmerized by her ability to express profound emotion through her eyes. Young as she is, Miss Foy is a perfect Queen Elizabeth II. While her face often remains impassive and regal, her eyes tell the truth.
Perhaps by now, you are wondering “why in the world is this article entitled “Be the Reason?” In this chaotic Covid, politically and emotionally fractured year of 2020, it has become inordinately clear to me that we must, must, must think of others…much too tempting to hide behind our masks, become too absorbed with our worries and cares. We risk forgetting how a normal life once felt. This difficult year won’t last forever. And when it is over, we want to feel good about how we handled it.
Social distancing is essential. Please REMEMBER! Each day scientists are progressing faster and sooner toward a successful vaccine than anticipated six months ago. When that day comes, we can celebrate to our hearts content. Meanwhile, let’s try to do whatever we can every day to bring sunshine into another life…even if it is making eye contact with the bank teller, the bag boy at Publix or a friend whom we can’t hug but love nonetheless.
Nothing is as rewarding to me in this life as touching the hearts and minds of others.
Top photo: Bigstock