The truly important things in life – love, beauty, and one’s own uniqueness – are constantly being overlooked. Pablo Casals
So I’m chatting with relative strangers outside a coffee shop recently when the conversation drifted into how hard it is to connect. The two people I was sharing a table with are regulars at this café, having found their group. Apparently they come almost every day! Curious they said how it worked here and not other places.
The other woman spoke of how grateful she was since she’d started coming with her husband in a wheelchair and it was nice to have all the familiar faces come sit with them and visit. On the one hand she felt it was sympathy, or compassion, but I suspect she came to realize they were all enjoying each other. Perhaps in this case the wheelchair was the draw, but we don’t need a lure like fishing bait. We can throw the first ball.
I thought how difficult it is for strangers to connect without obvious ties, kids in the same school, members of the same club, our pets. Then there are those who routinely just strike up a conversations. Sitting by the river at a ferry landing near where I live recently, a man waiting for the ferry got out of his car and just started talking to me, a good fifty feet away. Then he walked over to another person and started chatting with them. Not shy. Likes people? Networking? Flirtatious? Whatever.
It made me share with my table mates a decision I’d made years ago that each time I found myself admiring something about someone I was going to go over and say so, pay them the compliment. No keeping the joy to myself. It’s magic. Everyone just loves it. You know, you love it! They’re always startled, and delighted. Do any of us get too many compliments, too much attention? Even those chased by the paparazzi don’t get enough. Were it not for fame they’d be ignored.
You’ve had it yourself, a perfect stranger stops you in the middle of the parking lot about something you’re wearing. No ulterior motives, they just like your style. I have a neighbor with a precious little royal blue Fiat, complete with an “Ode to Joy” license plate. She says every time she goes out, someone comments. Tell me these gifts don’t make your day!
I had the chance to practice it recently at a volunteer event two or three times within a couple of hours. It’s so much fun watching the expression on their faces. It can carry you through the day, both parties. And it gets magnified when it’s public and other people hear it.
It cracks ice. Imagine the ice we could crack if we tried this on people we don’t like, or who seem not to like us? No need to have to be in the same clubs, from the same class or side of the track. “Hey man, I like your style, it makes me smile!”
Well, the other day, I got it! It does seem to knock you off your socks. And too often it’s when you think you don’t deserve it, “What, this old thing?”
Turning down a grocery aisle, head down looking for something, this very attractive woman stops me in my tracks. She likes my “outfit”! I looked wonderful, or something to that effect. And “outfit” it was, things I’d normally never put together, except it’s transitional weather, what to put on to keep from freezing or being too warm. There were layers of red, I seldom wear red, and none of it extraordinary. It just spoke to her!
After I caught my breath, I bit my tongue and did not say, “What, this?” I looked at her humbled and got my thank you out, too stunned to comment on her own awesome haircut, and continued down the aisle!
Tables turned! Truly it’s more difficult to receive. I did feel chagrined. You know the feeling, “these old things?” I should have washed my hair.
But doesn’t it lift you up, and humble you down? I couldn’t help but think of how all those people felt when I’d singled them out. On a bad day perhaps. The day they’d lost a job, a loved one, or just felt harried by the day.
What if we all committed to getting more out of ourselves, our own navels and insecurities and into curiosity, discovery? You know my tangible intangibles? Those words to live by, live as? What’s going on with the other person, how can I get them out of their own navel? Share the joy they’re giving you! “I love that color on you!” “You and your son seem so close.” “How do you like that model, I’m thinking of trying it?”
It takes paying attention. It takes giving a hoot. Looking up from the gadget, the clock ticking time, and our own problems to notice there’re others around dealing with the same “stuff.” We all need a daily lift. So along with escaping into nature, naming birds, connecting with puppy dogs, check out the person walking the dog. Make someone’s day.