As I see it: Strangers in passing

Photo by Ricky Romero used under CC BY-NC 2.0

By Patty Juliuson, Columnist

Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me,
why should you not speak to me?
And why should I not speak to you?
-Walt Whitman

I like people. Not the same way I like French fries, you understand, but in that “brotherhood of man” kind of way.

I have found that most people, when given a chance, have an interesting story or some important event from their life that they like to tell, and, for the most part, I enjoy listening.

I spent some time standing in line last week, and it’s remarkable to watch and listen as people begin to bond. Generally, the conversation starts out with geographic details; everyone needs to know where you live.

Next is what you do for a job, and then usually some interesting anecdote about work or perhaps a story regarding your hobby or a club or organization of which you’re a member. Stand in line long enough and you’ve identified a common cousin and are making dinner plans for next Tuesday.

It’s getting harder and harder to have this kind of interchange. So often, people have their faces buried in a smart phone and there’s no interaction at all. I’ve noticed this trend when walking across campus. Many students have ears focused on their music and eyes fixed to their phone.

When someone is blindly headed straight for me, I’ll admit I don’t veer off until the very last minute. I am naughty, I know, but I’m waiting to see if they will look up…

I miss the intention behind what I call the “neighbor wave,” that moment when you make eye contact and smile, with a head nod or slight gesture of the hand thrown in for good measure. The silent message is, “Hey there, I see you. Have a nice day.”

We mastered this little phenomenon when we lived in Texas- you even do it toward oncoming traffic. A slight lift of your fingers on the steering wheel, the chin comes up a little, smile, and you’ve satisfied an important social obligation. The only ones who don’t participate are outsiders, and now they know who you are…

Hey, you- you with the phone? What are you missing when you don’t look up? There’s a lady who is ready to give you a smile, and if we do that often enough, we just might become friends. You NEVER know who will nod and wave their way into your life, nor can you measure the impact they may have.

Look up, look around, invest, engage. I promise I’ll wave back.

I hope you meet more and more people to like, and I hope I am one of them.

See you in class.