When you look at another person, a person with a whole life of experience that has molded and customized their thoughts, feelings and judgments, what do you see?
I am an eye contact kind of gal. I like to do my best to see people, really see them, and establish a connection. At work, I come in contact with a lot of people. Many customers walk past me or I walk past them. I make eye contact, I smile, I ask how they are and if they need help with anything.
There are those who accept my gestures of openness and allow me to guide them to their destination in the store, and we have little conversations and enjoy the company briefly, and there are those who respond with a refusal of eye contact, that walk right by pretending I never spoke. And that’s okay, I don’t let it bother me, but the moments when I form a human connection are the best moments of my day.
During this past week, a week of confusion, heartache, anger, sadness, loneliness, and every other emotion you can think of—helplessness, loss, grief, resentment, abandonment, happiness, confidence, love, hate—I have realized what amazing human connections I have nurtured and developed with my coworkers.
I usually try to leave my problems at home and be cheerful at work. I ask my fellow employees about their lives outside of this establishment, about their opinions and thoughts. I try to answer their questions clearly and thoroughly. I give them space to do the best job they can do, and congratulate and thank them for a job well done. I have been trying to be the best manager I can be, and accept people for what they can offer.
This week, when I couldn’t hide my sadness and had trouble functioning, I received the best gifts possible from my coworkers. I received their empathy, support and advice. I talked with most of them at different points during the week, took in their thoughts and really absorbed their feedback. I accepted their hugs and personal stories about difficult situations. Their love and support in my time of need clarified for me how much I value and cherish the human connection with coworkers, and also with frequent customers.
My veteran friend still comes to see me. Yesterday, he excitedly told me he just finished culinary school. He shared his story with a professor at a local university who owns a restaurant and offered him an internship. He was so excited that he couldn’t sleep that night. He told me that I was the first person he shared this great news with. He doesn’t have anyone else in his life to tell. This made me very sad for him, but I’m happy that we established our human connection, that I can tell him, “Congratulations!! I’m very happy for you! You must be so proud!”
How many small interactions have we had in our lives that positively affected someone else? It isn’t something we will ever know or be able to quantify. But every single time you leave your house, you have the opportunity to interact, make a connection, and make your life and someone else’s life a little more bearable.
I strive for these connections. They make me feel accepted and wanted and valued, which makes me a more confident person, and I suspect that the people on the other end are receiving their own kinds of gifts from these interactions.
A few of the hospice veterans that I’m getting to know want to form connections. I ask them questions, we look into each other’s eyes when we talk, I do my best to really listen and if I don’t understand, I ask them to repeat. They tell me about their younger lives and share stories about sweet grandchildren or tell me what is hurting or uncomfortable. I offer stories about myself that relate to their stories. They ask me questions, too. One man remembered what I do for a living, and told me he bets that I’m a great manager. And when there is nothing to say, we all sit quietly, comfortable just being with one another and comfortable in our own skin.
The atmosphere at the hospice unit is so calm and comfortable. I can feel that sense of calm flooding into me as soon as I arrive. It’s an aura of acceptance. Nurses, staff, doctors, janitors, food deliverers, and patients, understand what the next step is for these old men, and all live with this understanding. Death is a harsh reality, and it’s much harder for some to accept than others, but we will all go through it, and having that love and support from others makes that reality a little easier to live with.
Whether it’s a video I posted of a song I play and sing on guitar with a subject, “Can you tell that I’m bored?” and a close family friend emailing to ask why I’m bored and shows concern, my nephew and I smiling and staring into each other’s eyes, or a moment on Christmas Eve when my mom and I looked at each other with big smiles that displayed our unconditional love for one another, these moments are the most important in all of our existence. They are the moments that connect us with the world and help us realize how important each and every on one of us is.
I hope that, by posting this and sharing with all of you, you can take my words to heart and become aware of the vibes you send to others. If everyone could be accepting, understanding, open and supportive, the world would be a much happier place.