I have always been an observer of people. I find them fascinating! Everyone has a story so entirely unique to them. The human recipes comprising of an infinite combination of personality, lifestyle, formative years, past hurts, current hurts, present joys, and places where love is spent. Airports, NYC, the Boardwalk . . . such great people watching places! I observe the tentative hand-holding of teens on a first date as they search for words to keep the awkward conversation going. The guy in the business suit, in a rush, on his phone, wearing his sunglasses inside the airport in order to avoid any connection with anyone. He’s escaping the pressures of home with two toddlers, a boy and a girl. But work is his excuse; he’s the provider. The exhausted mom, pushing a stroller along the boardwalk, barely having enough time to apply lip-gloss in order to get out of the house on time and really just taking the walk with her littles in order that nap time would arrive sooner. The child, loosely holding the hand of the parent, being tugged occasionally, little feet scurry to catch up, but the inquisitive eyes wish they could stop and look, feel and ask questions about all they see. The woman, late 50’s pondering how quick the years went, hoping that today their beautiful son or daughter would take some time between their classes to call and just say hi. My favorite, the older couple, holding hands. Matted hair on the back of their head from a good night’s sleep. They walk slowly, words come easy, they have time to smile at the toddler who waves, and almost like an invisible wave of emotion you can feel what they’ve been through the past 40-50 years. Complete respect and admiration on my end.
And through the thousands of people I have observed in my lifetime I’ve noticed that they all have one thing in common: they all want to be heard. Everyone has a voice, some louder and more polished and practiced than others, but it’s there, unique to them. However, often that voice gets pushed aside. Too many people don’t practice revealing who they are to the world because they’ve been taught through culture and life that unless they do something great or know someone important, they really aren’t that important. Wrong. We are ALL worthy to be heard and it’s up to us as humans to build each other up, refuel and affirm each other, and love.
So I am taking it upon myself in this month’s blog post to speak truth to you and ultimately challenge you to apply some simple practices that will make life less about you and more about others. There is great truth to the phrase, “The more you give, the more you will receive.” And not to act out of greed for what could come your way if you do that one thing for someone else. Instead we need to naturally condition ourself to give in such a way that it would come natural and in turn, to receive with humility when the good comes back our way. Call it Karma, your light, whatever you want. It’s basic human goodness and here’s a list that can support you in this endeavor.
When we are in conversation, most of us pretend to listen. Secretly, we are thinking about a personal experience or topic that can relate to what the other person is saying. We wait, often impatiently, for a break in conversation in order that we can squeeze our way in and just be heard. But are they listening? Probably not entirely. They are doing what you just did! How can they keep this conversation going so that eventually it turns back to who they are? In this space of conversing two people want to be heard by the other, but instead they play a dance. Slowly tossing the “I” voice in each others courts. Practice being the one who doesn’t need the ball in your court. Better yet, don’t be afraid to ask questions. But mostly just listen, be the holder of their space and all the things important to them at that moment. Because someday maybe (or maybe not) they will listen to you in this same way.
What does it feel like to give? It feels wonderful! Giving doesn’t have to be grandiose, it comes in so many forms and functions. Giving is giving a ride home to a friend even if it isn’t on the way. It’s finding a seashell and giving it to your two year old knowing that, although you really wish they would keep it, you will soon enough find it broken. Giving is paying for the order of the person behind you in the Dunkin Donut’s drive-thru. Giving is pouring more water in an empty class. And this one—a must, not even a choice—give your hand to the older woman in the Target parking lot. She won’t refuse. When we give, we build others up, we pat ourselves on the back and we leave feeling, well, just plain happy.
Remember when you were a kid how easily surprises came our way. The Cracker Jack box surprise, The snow day surprise you impatiently waited for next to the radio, hoping not to miss your school announcement among the alphabetically ordered list of closings. The surprise when that cute boy asked to dance with you at the 7th grade dance. The magical surprises on Christmas morning. But, what surprises us as adults? The water bill, the “check engine” light, the phone call from the teacher (and not the good phone call), the Evening News, which usually isn’t positive these days. The point is, there are not many good surprises in our adult lives.
Surprise someone! Come to work with a cup of coffee for them because you know how they like it. Ask them to go for a walk with you. Remember, people want to connect and feel like others want to spend time with them. Likely they will say yes to this unexpected invitation. Surprise the Toll Collector with a smile. They don’t see many of those. Bring back the joy that can be found in a surprise! But just surprise and don’t look for how this can benefit you. Because naturally it will.
Hug more. That’s all. Human touch is important. Hug those you love, squeeze your children so hard they feel the depths of your love. Hug some who invites you in their space because the truth is that you don’t know the last time they had the opportunity to hug, let alone be touched at all. Touch is power and beautiful energetic connection from one soul to another.
5. Look Them in The Eye
Eye contact requires vulnerability. The eyes, referred to as the “the windows to the soul” allow people to connect and feel deeply for one another. It takes a glance of the eyes to build up or a different glance to accuse and tear down. Be that one friend who can hold a gaze, it shows the other person that you are fully present, willing to put aside your “stuff” and just listen. Practice this with the ones you love, notice how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with connecting in this way. You might surprise yourself, it’s harder than you think, but something that goes a long way when you chip away at the practice of it.
6. The Birthday
Our birthday is the one day in the year that the purpose of the day is to celebrate who we are! Yes, some are better than others, but all have a similar attachment to them. The attachment… this day is mine, it’s for me, and therefore I’m important if not to anyone but my mother and father, I’m still very important. Send a happy birthday FB message, a private message, share something encouraging, make it more than a sentence. Your words and actions mean more than your gifts anyway. Words are lasting. Gifts (though fun) are shiny at first, but lose their appeal over time. Your words penetrate the soul. There are a million ways to make someone feel special on their birthday. My favorite…remember it and say it in more than two words!
Relationships thrive with humility. Anyone married for at least five years can attest to this. Be humble and apologize. Similar to the phrase, “nothing good happens after 1am” is the phrase “Nothing good happens if no apology is given.” Search your soul and extend an olive branch of self. This action shows courage and it shows that your confidant and real enough to own your mistakes. It’s my somewhat backwards way of thinking that hopes my children remember how often I apologized to them. I’m wrong more than I’m right and I want them to see that they have a mother who’s human and not super-human.
8. Be Humble
How can we celebrate the joys of another if we can’t stop talking about ourselves? Here’s the thing…that person you’re talking to knows what your good at. They know that you just bought a new car, they know about the promotion, they know of your recent amazing vacation because of the pictures you posted. No need to re-hash information about how great we are, our greatness out-pours naturally by just being us. When you humble yourself, you reject your selfishness and create space for that other person to just be in your company. In fact, if it’s an encouragement at all, the less we talk about ourselves the more confidant we appear. Be you in all your humble beauty. And when your friend shares his or her recent accomplishment, smile and say, “that’s awesome!”
9. Send the Card
In this age of texting code for phrases and words, e-mails from cell phones, FB messaging, and a slew of communication tools at our finger-tips, we have nearly forgotten how to write by hand! Who doesn’t feel like their hand is going to fall off if given the task of writing a full page document. We almost never write, only when we absolutely have to. As a result people don’t receive cards like they used to. There’s something so magical about seeing a colored envelope in your mailbox with your name on it. Your mother’s hand-writing you recognize immediately of course, but whose writing is this you wonder? Be that person who sends the card just because. Very likely it is one of the bright spots in this person’s day. My grandmother was good at sending cards. Not just birthday cards, but Valentines cards, Easter cards, and the “I’m just thinking of you while your’e at college card”. I still have them; they are precious to me and they always will be. Allow your card to end up in a pile of special items in someone else’s home. You never know how long your words will last if they are happened upon in the future. Take the time, send the card.
10. Tell Them
Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you have to offer the world. You don’t need to stand on a podium to be heard. You just need to look someone in the eye and affirm them, tell them you love them, tell them you appreciate them, tell them they matter. Because the truth is most of the human race, even the rich and powerful, feels entirely inadequate. Be truth. Live truth. And most importantly, embrace your own truth.