Nigel over at Under The Counter wrote a wonderful post the other day about ‘things that are ordinarily ecstatic‘, like the minty freshness of just-brushed teeth and a long-forgotten song popping up unexpectedly while listening to an old mix CD.
I loved this post, because there is so much beauty in the everyday, and I think we forget this sometimes. One of the things that I listed in my reponse to his post was about saying good morning to random strangers as I pass them on the footpath during my (semi-regular) morning run. There is also an old man that I see every so often, depending on what time I drag myself out of bed, who will wink and lift his hat to me as I run by.
I started thinking about this further, and I find it really strange how reluctant people are, in general, to even make eye contact with strangers on the street. I really don’t like doing it myself to be honest, I don’t know if it’s shyness or a lack of confidence or if I don’t trust people or if we’ve all just become really insular, but I find it quite difficult to look a stranger in the eye as I pass them by and I have to almost force myself to do it sometimes. I feel bad when I don’t do it though – after all, what’s the worse thing that can happen? They don’t look back at you?
It wasn’t until I went overseas I think that I started doing this more often. I was just so thrilled to be in a foreign place that I couldn’t help but look at everything I passed, including the people, and I relished the conversations that I had with the locals, most of which started with a simple hello and usually developed further when they heard my broad Orrrstralian accent (though it’s nowhere near as twangy as Missy Higgins or as over-the-top as Steve Irwin’s, thankyou very much!) Being overseas and having all these new experiences meant that my mind couldn’t help but become more open and receptive and somehow that lead to me becoming a little less reserved when it came to talking to new people. Being over there by myself didn’t hurt either – I was almost forced by circumstance to meet people.
This all seems quite obvious when I write it down, but as somebody who often finds it quite difficult to interact with new people, the experiences I had meeting people overseas – people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome – have made it a little bit easier for me to get up the courage to look strangers in the eye when I pass them on the street here at home.
Now I make sure that I look at people when I pass them because more often than not you’ll get a smile or a hello or at the very least, that strange little grimace that people do when they’re not sure why you’re looking at them, but they’re at least willing to acknowledge your existence. And it really is nice to share that moment with a stranger, a moment where you’re both treading in the same space and sharing the same air, even for the briefest of times.
I now order you to listen to some Sigur Ros.
Because you’re worth it.