The Neighborhood…

Going for a walk in my neighborhood, as is my wont… One of the things that makes a walk in the neighborhood nice is connecting with the people walking by. A quick smile, “have a nice afternoon”, even a nod and a “hey” or “howsitgoin”.

It all involves eye contact, or at least the attempt (I know, we’re all walking so fast that sometimes aiming for the other pair of eyes can be difficult- but we try).

Or- I try. I’m amazed at how many people pretend they don’t care, pretend they’re busy (busy walking, that is…). The put on the angry face, the sad face, the “I don’t even see you” face.

I live in a very mixed neighborhood. There are BMW’s and old beaten up pickup trucks on blocks. Nice houses with native plant gardens in their front yards, and other houses with the perpetual broken couch on the curb in front. Broken glass and dog shit, and manicured front lawns. I haven’t seen any pattern regarding which ethnicity lives which way, and I don’t think I would find anything if I looked.

But the resignation in some people’s demeanor! Again, there seems to be no correlation with the quality of their clothes, their age or the color of their skin. A well-dressed older man with his head down so far he can hardly see where he’s walking. A young girl with her headphones on who can’t be bothered to glance to the side to see the person walking past. Then there’s the couple walking by looking perpetually like they’ve just had an argument.

It makes me sad at first, but in the long run, I’m encouraged. Because…

… When I do catch their eyes, they’re grateful, they become happy. They remember that they’re part of a community of other humans. Sometimes the old lady who’s trying as hard as she can to avoid eye contact, looking sad and beaten by life… when I say “hi”, she brightens up, comes to life, stands taller and walks on happy. And the kids under their ipods pretending they don’t care are relieved they don’t have to pretend anymore.

I’m incorrigible. I say hello to everyone, smile at everyone. People in elevators probably hate me… for a second. Then we talk and are friends for a moment.

In the bookstore the other day, an elderly lady thanked me for “waking her up.” What was so special about what I did? I asked for some book recommendations…

Homeless people- wow, all of a sudden they want to talk. I rarely have any money to give, but I have my willingness to connect, and for some people that’s worth everything. In fact, when I do have money to contribute, while I’m sure it’s appreciated, it’s really just an excuse to engage and offer a smile and kind word. Sometimes we have great conversations, and that person becomes energized and ready to take on the world again.

IMPORTANT! This isn’t me. This is can be all of us.

You can engage! Look at people. Talk to people. Those of you that know me know that I’m “shy”, but so what! That should stop me? Who cares if you’re shy or embarrassed! You are a gift and you make a difference. Give a word, a smile, a nod even. Most of all make eye contact. People are dying to make eye contact and sometimes they are too frightened to do so. You don’t have to be.

Be a hero for a moment. One smile or kind word begets another. Maybe two or three.

About Bernie Sirelson

• Piano Teacher • Futurist • Out of the Box
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