“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for a minute?” ~Henry David Thoreau
You’re riding on the subway, immersed in a book. You’re running in the park, lost in your iPod. You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, fixated on the menu.
Sometimes we act like we’re completely alone, even when surrounded by lots of people. It’s like we’re following an unspoken rule that suggests we shouldn’t look at each other, at least not for too long.
It happens all the time: You suddenly make eye contact with someone you don’t know, and your discomfort compels you to avert your eyes. If you do manage a smile, it’s probably perfunctory, without real joy and affection behind it. Those are emotions you reserve for people you know—people you’re more intimate with.
Some studies have indicated people who live in cities are less apt to make eye contact with strangers than people who live in suburbs. This may be a response to crowding; when you feel you don’t have enough personal space, you’re more protective of it.
If there’s truth to that hypothesis, it’s somewhat ironic. You move to a city to experience the life that pulsates through it, and then respond by shutting down in everyday situations.
Resist the urge to shutdown. Instead of walking with your eyes glued to your feet, hold your head high and connect with people. Really see them and let them see you. If you’re not a confident person, connecting for more than one second may feel incredibly difficult. Just try.
When you make a genuine connection, you acknowledge that the person in front of you is real and worthy. You remind both them and yourself that no one operates in a vacuum, that the world is so much larger than the constructs we operate within: our families, our teams at work, our friends. And lastly, you foster the type of spirit that stays open to possibilities.
When you look a little longer you see more—more in other people, more within yourself, and more within your reach.
Do happy. It’s something you’re due.