The Other is Human28th Jul 2022
Yesterday morning I arrived back in Wellington after a sleep-deprived, red-eye flight from Perth. As the kids and I meandered our way into the airport’s multi-story car park, a lady kindly held the lift door open for us so we could jump in, rather than wait for the next one. She and I had a friendly conversation as we rode up the floors together.
As we started to make our way in the car through the levels of the car park, my foggy brain hadn’t quite kicked in. I drove up a ramp which I thought was the way to the exit, only to be met by a car about to come down the same ramp. I’d clearly got it wrong. The driver threw their hands up in exasperation. And then her face changed as she realised it was me – the same person she’d been having a nice chat with in the lift not five minutes before. She gave me a friendly wave and reversed up. As our cars passed, we lowered our windows and laughed about the crazy effects of jet lag.
This incident got me thinking. If we hadn’t had that little chat in the lift, would she have been as friendly at the ramp? Perhaps, yet my experience tells me that it’s easier to label someone as an idiot when you haven’t had a personal connection with them. It’s easier to withhold grace and put them in a box with a negative label on it.
We’ve all been there. You know. The rude person in the line at the supermarket. The driver who cut you off. The leader who seems to be not telling us the whole story.
They’re all humans.
“They judge me before they even know me.” Shrek
One of the wisest pieces of advice I’ve received is to remember that everyone is dealing with their own struggles. No-one has it all together. None of us are perfect. When we can see that we’re all in the same ocean, swimming around trying to figure it out one day at a time, we can more easily find the space to give grace to the other.
What helps us to remember that more easily is authentic connection. In an age where it’s easier to work from home and connect solely via Zoom or Teams, or to have our groceries and parcels delivered contactlessly, we’re at risk of losing what makes life worthwhile. The power of connection.
As my experience shows, it doesn’t take much. In fact, it only takes the briefest of positive encounters to make the difference between stranger and friend. To give a sparkly smile (even from behind a mask). To ask ‘how’s your day going?’ to the beleaguered receptionist. To start the team meeting with a chat about the weekend before getting down to business. All simple acts of humanity that build a bridge and create that sense that ‘you matter’.
The World Health Organisation recognises that high-quality social connections are essential to our mental and physical health and our well-being. High quality doesn’t need to be deep and meaningful. Just thoughtful. Showing someone that you see them as another human.
What might you do today to create that for someone?
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