I call him a gentle giant. He smiles graciously as we share a few minutes together as he waits for his wife to conclude a doctor’s appointment.
It would have been easy for me to judge, to profile, to make assumptions to the intent of my new friend Michael, as he sits ominously under the shade of a tree. His sheer stature taking a dominant section of city bench.
But to make any assumption is not my job, or a burden that I wish to carry. 365 has taught me to see the world for what it is. A surface covered with frail people. People who, in majority, are unknowingly deeply united with a unanimous want to be loved, appreciated and respected for who they are; or in difficult cases, who they were, or even want to become. Definitely, it is not any one of our duties to cast ourselves as judge, jury and prosecutor.
Sure, I’ve just rebounded from an expected flurry of rejections in course to meeting Michael. Even a little shaken as I approach him in not really wanting to receive another deflating brush off. But here is the thing, in every face turned away from me this day; I know that deep in my heart, I’ve done my by best to keep my intent pure. That in itself is the greatest healer to any esteem hit that I have taken over the course of 365s stranger meeting experiment.
Now I’m not saying that I a master of Zen by any means. I’m as mortal as any of us. Just as suspect to projecting the negative as well as the positive; and yes, my emotions run away the same as, I guess, it does for many of us. They key though is keeping our internal dialogue in check. Hard to do, but I promise, the rewards are great. The amazing lesson taught to me by the hundreds of individuals I have met over the last year.
So it is with this subtext that I reach out to Michael in approaching him under his shaded rescue from the heat of the early afternoon sun. No malice to hurt, no judgmental finger pointed, nor any agenda other than wanting to meet another human for who they are.
Upon my introduction, Michael is reserved, yet in his held back caution, I see an open mind. “It’s always a little scary approaching stranger,” I expose in my summation of 365 and in opening my perspectives to him.
Michael thinks for beat, “Yeh… I’ll do it.” He invites me to take seat beside him in our sanctuary of traffic noised shade.
As we talk, and despite the occasional thunder of passing trucks, we find our time together is rather peaceful. And even though we are further besieged by the hum of the continued pulse of smaller moving vehicles, Michael give’s his opening advice to the world, “I’d tell everybody to treat each other like you want to be treated.
There are a lot of different people in the world, but still we are cut from the same cloth… We’re people… We’re human. It’s not about ethnicity… even though the world sees it that way. But I don’t see it that way.”
An eighteen-wheeler thunders by… shaking the ground a little.
A brief pause and Michael picks up where he left off, “I think we’d live in a whole much better world if people would just take the time and hear what the next person’s got to say… and to pass something on that is good if they do have something to say.”
Michael speaks of his observations of society, “You have people that are here for one reason or another. For whatever they think they may stand for… or what they might do… or something like that…
…I find today that a lot of people are unapproachable… but still, there are a lot of people who are approachable.
I’m no individual to judge, but you can pretty much see the good from the bad, and sometimes I miss a call: The person that you think is bad, is not… and the person you think is good, is actually bad. It all depends on how well you get to know the individual and what they are going through.”
Therein the wisdom in Michael’s eye’s is revealed. My take on what he is challenging us to do… We need to at least be open in getting to know the people around us, not judging, and surely not attacking. It’s like that “I can put my head on the pillow and sleep tonight” feeling. The knowledge of day well spent in not carrying malice home to dream about.
It all depends on how well you get to know the individual and what they are going through,” Michael points out.
We have no idea of what is inside a person at first glance. What appears as dismissible intolerance could actually be feelings of loss, despair or lowliness. Or, the grasping sound of ecstatic laughter could be a shroud in escaping any range of hidden hurts. There is no absolute answer to being able to know of any deep experience that any one of us is going through, but we can at least look at each other with compassion and inquiring minds.
I’m not saying that we have to be saviors to the world, just open to taking an extra second in governing our mind waves as we view of all that we meet or pass by.
This is an exercise that I do from time to time, I tell myself, “They were once infants, just like all of us, what happened to them to make them who they are?”
And as Michael has brought to our attention, “We have no idea of what they have gone through, or are going through.”
“People seem to be disconnected today…” Michael suggests, “… and a lot of it has to do with technology.
You walk and you see a lot of young kids… they have headphones on, and they’re really not paying attention to their surroundings. They are looking up… they are looking down at their phone screens, or texting.
To me it seems that if we keep heading in that direction, we are going to fall out of touch with the real value of human socialness. And if it keeps going like it is… people are just going to fall out of touch with each other.
People are not aware of their surroundings, and I don’t think they really care. It’s all about right now… they are not looking into the future.
I don’t see a real good future for us… that is in the next twenty years or so. I would hope things would change or get better… but I don’t know?
People don’t talk anymore… really talk! You know… try to see where you are coming from.
The way I look at it… the Internet, the iPhones, the iPads… even with them, everyone is disconnected.”
My only words to Michael, “You’re not alone, my friend.”
So to readers of my blog… to all users of the social media… and to any who find hours past in gazing into the entertaining grip of technology… please, and by all means keep using it.
But in your routines, Michael asks us one basic request. To put them aside in balancing our lives… to get out… to meet people… and to socialize the old-fashioned way… face to face. Then you can tell the world about it with whatever device you choose. It works better that way… 365 has taught me that.
Michael, thank you for you direction, and we’ll do our best to stay connected the right way!