“If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world.” -Francis Bacon
The other day, I visited a new doctor, and noticed the nurse who took my vitals seemed somewhat withdrawn. He didn’t make eye contact while taking my pulse, or engage in conversation. While I realize a medical appointment is not a social outing, I got the sense he was going over something in his head, and I found myself wanting to connect a little.
So while he was taking my blood, I asked, “Do you ever get squeamish when doing this? I think I’d pass out!”
He laughed and told me he’d gotten used to it. After all, he’d been in his job for 15 years.
His smile touched me, because I realized there was a good chance I could have left without seeing it. I could have sat there, said nothing, and then went along my merry way, knowing him only as the man who put a needle in my arm.
I realized then how much I appreciate sharing little moments with strangers—and how grateful I am when I get the opportunity to view people outside the context of our labels.
It’s when you bond with the person behind the counter at a coffee shop because he recognized you both have the same phone. Or when you laugh with the crossing guard because you both know what it’s like to be around rowdy kids.
It’s when all of a sudden we aren’t limited by the roles we play, but instead see each other as people just like us.
The other day I read that connecting isn’t the cure for loneliness—intimacy is. I suspect this is true. You can have countless acquaintances and yet still feel like no one really knows you. We need to really see and be seen by people, but we can also give and receive a lot from these brief encounters with strangers.
Every day, we come into contact with hundreds of people without ever knowing them beyond faces in the crowd. It’s tempting to bunch people into groups—your people, and the people you don’t know.
But there’s something immensely gratifying about blurring the lines a little. It’s not possible to get to know everyone. But it’s possible to know you shared a real moment, and made a difference in each other’s day.
Photo by goat_girl_photos