Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Place Where We Become Human Again

I've been out of the city for about a week now, actually twin cities with a population just over 300,000. Instead, I've been spending time at my Mom's house in a town with a population of 38,000. It has been what I have needed. I can actually walk down the street without the gridlock of sight and sound and make my way spaciously through the mall.

Perhaps the thing that has been so refreshing is that I've sat here in a coffee shop at the mall the last couple of days, and people have actually smiled at me when I smile at them! It's amazing! In the city, when you come across someone on the street, they inevitably either turn their head away, or their chin becomes glued to their neck, as if you were Medusa.

If eyes are the window to the soul, it's clear these people are suspicious and don't want to let you in at all.

We do this at our own peril. Yes, there are some people who are disturbed, but you know what, I'll even go as far as to say that they deserve a friendly smile to brighten their day. We all need some connection with our fellow human beings, and what better way to start than with a smile. It says "Welcome friend, we share our humanity," rather than "Get away, you're probably a perv or a threat."

It is when we make eye contact or - shocking - even say hello that we may make new friends, perhaps our best friends. A part of either us or them or both may be healed as we realize "this person sees me on their level and may even care about me. It's been a long time since I've felt that." In today's world of video games, virtual worlds, satellite TV, and social media, so many of us have very little actual human contact.

My brothers and sisters, today we have an opportunity change all that. Maybe it starts with just one smile.

Mark Andrew Nouwen