I was at my local park the other day. I sat on my favourite bench with my feet curled underneath me feeling the sturdiness of the bench holding me up. Sure. Strong. And grounded. The world lay open before me; the vast green field of the cricket ground, the pristine houses that lined the streets, the setting sun looming over the tall, tall trees. So close yet so far.
There was a dog in the ground, running to & fro excited for the wide, open space, no doubt. He embodied freedom. A freedom I envied. I watched him dance his way from one end of the grounds to the other. His owner content to walk leisurely beside. I smiled.
I watched as a new comer with his dog walked down the slope into the ground. The new dog was big & intimidating. It looked like a conqueror of spaces and of other dogs. I was afraid for the other dog. In all his crazy excitement, he might spill himself all over the new dog. And the new dog might not like it. Not at all. So I held my breath and willed peace.
The big dog, in all his big-dog air walked over to the smaller dog. They sniffed each other & gave each other dogly greetings which involved more sniffing & kissing. Then as quickly as the ritual had begun, it ended. The two dogs ran off into the sunset together as though they had known each other forever. All was well in the dog world. I released my breath and sat back into myself.
I thought about the human world.
So much we can learn from those two dogs. But I want to pick one;
Acknowledge people. Say hello to people. Nod. Smile. Acknowledge.
Don’t hold back. Don’t hide. The tendency is to look away from people we don’t know. To suspect. To imagine the very worst about them. We have convinced ourselves that the world is full of crazy people who want to hurt us. Sure, there are people like that indeed. Let’s not be naïve.
But that girl serving you soup in the restaurant? C’mon, say hi. Say thank you. Mean it. Maintain eye contact with your banker. He is human too. And would appreciate a warm smile.
It all sounds easy. But it isn’t. I think you know. We have been trained by our culture not to care for people we don’t know. To be too busy getting from A to B to notice them. We have been taught not to be interested in random strangers who share random stories on side-walks. We protect ourselves by shutting them out.
I want to do better – to show myself more vividly and vulnerably, to love publicly. I hold back most of the time because I am afraid. I am afraid of being thought of as weird. I am afraid of being thought of as a hippie. Seriously.
But how on earth are we going to break these perceptions if we simply do nothing? If we do not even try?
Acknowledging people & saying hello, these things may be small but these are the small things that build our ways of seeing and being. They sit at the core of our worldviews and the sorts of stories we tell ourselves about the world. We will never know how awesome and so like us other people are if we avoid them or build glass houses around ourselves.
This has to stop. Break the cycle. Start small. With your family, friends or neighbours. Start today. Start now.
If dogs can do it, why can’t we? It sounds crude, but it is true. & its truth cannot be denied.
Go be properly human.