Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Universal Need to be Noticed



I’ve never received The Friendliest Human Being of The Year Award nor do I foresee it happening in this life or posthumously.  I try to be friendly and warm and often it is with substantial effort.  As a therapist I relate to and engage people all day and typically on an intense level.  By end of day “warm and friendly” has disintegrated into “warped and fiendish.”  I just want to be left alone; don’t bother me.  If my cell phone rings I moan, hoping the call isn’t urgent, important, or someone needing something.  If it is, this will require effort, energy, and empathy-- little of which I have after 6:00 p.m. 

All of this is preface.  I am involved in a local church and really enjoy these people.  On a Sunday morning I make it a point to greet my friends and inquire as to how they’re doing.  If I don’t know someone I may say hi and generically ask how they are doing.  I’m sincere in doing so, but it’s not like I am gushing friendliness and back-slapping everyone in sight.  So I was quite surprised by an email a friend at church sent me today.  She said,  Just wanted to say thanks for always acknowledging                .    It makes me feel good as her friend when others take the initiative to introduce themselves and then take the few seconds to say hi again each week! I know it means a lot to her too as the whole church thing is really new to her still and she doesn't know very many people. I just wanted you to know I noticed and I appreciate it!!

I appreciate her gesture of kindness, but am also saddened by it.  She is glad that I acknowledge her friend.  Are we becoming so uncivil and autonomous that mere acknowledgment of one’s existence and presence is deeply appreciated?  Can it be that a mere “Hi. . . how are you?. . . It’s good to see you. . . “ may be the only warm contact a person may receive during the week? 

Maybe we under-estimate the value of our words.  The healing influence of an affirming acknowledgment.  The significance of noticing someone.  We may never know (unless someone like my friend goes out of her way to tell us) the impact of our presence.  When I greet someone I usually will either shake their hand or gently and briefly place my hand on their shoulder.  We all need to know we are not untouchable, for untouchable often translates into unlovable.  One of the reasons I do so is because decades ago someone—without even knowing—deeply affirmed me in the most nonchalant way.

I was in my 20's and had gone through a devastating divorce that shattered my world.  I felt absolutely rejected and not only unloved but unlovable.  It was summertime in San Diego and I was sitting on the beach, my head down as I was buried in my sadness.  Several young women were chatting as they walked by and one of them saw me.  She saw into me.  She paused, spoke several words of greeting and reaching down she mussed up my hair, smiled and kept on walking.  I had never seen her before; never saw her again.  All I know is that in that 3-5 second encounter she imparted something to me that moved my heart and soothed my soul.  Her few words and her brief touch served to remind me that I still mattered--that as cast aside as I felt, I was still touchable.  That memory has stuck with me all these years. 

People need us to look them in the eye.  People need us to acknowledge them.  People need a loving touch.  Those simple gestures may have a lifelong impact.  You may never know.

I can tell you this; I know.



 

11 comments:

Debra said...

Hi Steve,
Now this is what I call a genuine piece of writing. I believe in paying it forward. Someone shows kindness (as the woman who stopped to acknowledge your need), you pass it on to others. Just a little love goes a long way. And for some, a small act of kindness may determine life or death. You never know.

Widow_Lady302 said...

I love this post. I think we could dedicate an entire blog to this, honestly. You wouldn't believe the emails I have gotten that read, "You are the only person who even tries to get it, or listen to me, or care" (one or more of those. It breaks my heart. Thank you for reminding me why I need to keep doing what I do. It gets hard. I forget sometimes. One person may need me just to say hi or send a genuine I love them. We keep on keeping on <3 Hi, Steve, it is nice to see your post today. I mean that.

Alejandro said...

Hello Steve you have hit a nerve with me by the truth that is in your words. A simple recognition to or by someone makes all the difference from a good day and a bad.

Things have changed as I do remember you could walk down the street and have so many greetings from people you don't know. Here in Perth it still happens but my home town of Sydney... very rare.

Even when you don't feel the need or want, to say G'Day you always feel better afterwards that you had.

Cheers Mate

Mary said...

It is a shame that our world has become so fast paced that we forget, or we are too busy sometimes, that we don't acknowledge someone. I visited a place in Montana once....their motto? 'If you are too busy to visit with friends and neighbors, then you are too busy'. I have thought about that motto often and try to remember it when I am out in public. You never know what is going on in someone else's life and how much a simply wave of the hand connected to a smile from you may help them. A 'smile' is the universal language and means the same thing everywhere. I just wish people would take the time to use it more.

Bongo said...

To make a difference....a word, a touch ..sometimes just a smile....is all it takes.. just small things that let someone know they matter....The touch that says they matter....the words that sit and make them smile.. the smile that says...they are good...Those actions could save a persons life....make a difference..you never know you just never know....As always....

Debra Fileta said...

Glad to see you're still writing Z...and that all my hours of blog lessons did not go to waste. Good stuff.

Bongo said...

Ohhhh Debra Z needs so much more help....Z just can't multitask and is so OCD...Don't go to far away Deb blogging 102 comin up ....As always...XOXOXO

Steve said...

I love the spirit and heart of all of you.

Anonymous said...

Steve - I agree with you and have been trying to smile and have something nice to say to strangers or just people I only see once in a while. If it doesn't help them, it certainly makes me feel better.


Mom in SC

Bongo said...

It always feels good to say "hi" or smile at someone ...even when it's not returned...

Steve said...

Anonymous Mom in SC, I love your attitude.