One thing many of us forget is the importance of our existence in others’ lives. Don’t scoff–it’s true! Each of us is important to many people, and very often that importance is never even acknowledged.
Katalina used to take the train into the city every day. Monday through Friday, she’d leave her house at 6:40 AM, get on the 7:00 AM train to Boston, ride, in complete silence, for 83 minutes, arrive in Boston and then walk 25 minutes to her job. Two ½ hours, one direction. The same amount of time coming home. That’s 5 hours per day. Five days per week. Or 25 hours per week.
She hated the incredible loneliness of riding the train by herself, even though she was surrounded by people. She tried to make conversation with individuals, but nothing really took. Clearly, they didn’t want to be bothered.
Ten years or so later, after she had quit her city job and no longer had that commute to make, she ran into several people who recognized her from her commuting days. They’d always act so happy to see her, as if she were an old friend, instead of someone they’d ignored for hours on end. The way Katalina makes sense of their response is by thinking that her presence alone had significant impact on people, and that it highlights how little we understand how much just being matters to others.
It is very common to assume that we don’t really matter. Sure, we matter to our friends and family, but whether it’s the guy who checks us out at the market or the person who lives two doors down and after 3 years of living near each other you still haven’t officially met–these people matter. Not that they necessarily know who you are, but your presence in their life, even if it’s only brief, creates a bond. Something that allows each of you to nod your heads in passing, and not really giving that person another thought. Until something happens and when you go to the store “your” guy is no longer there. You feel a sense of loss. Their presence was important.
This bond between strangers is mysterious, and has many different explanations. It seems to me that the truth is that we are all, always, looking for connection. And even if you haven’t actually made any kind of outreach, your presence IS noticed, accepted, and wanted. Your absence creates a loss.
How would things change if you decided to reach out to these “invisible” people in your life? A smile and a greeting could make their day. Many years ago I wanted to enter this contest to see how many Hershey’s Kisses would fit in a container. Since math estimates are NOT my thing, I decided to purchase an incredible volume of kisses, fill the container, and count them. (I know, totally nuts. Don’t even ask!) When I had the magic number, I found myself with pounds of the chocolate, and while I never thought it would be so, I was so sick of it. So I put 10 or so kisses each in a bunch of plastic bags, and kept them with me. If I went to the gas station, I’d give the guy some kisses. If I went to pick up my kids at school, I’d give kisses to anyone I met along the way (teachers, kids, neighbors–didn’t matter). And so on. The result was fascinating, because all of these people to whom I had been invisible suddenly became friends. “Hey, how are you doing?” they say next time we passed. If I stopped for gas, the attendant was quick to come up and chat with me. I had passed from being invisible to being a person who did them a kind deed.
I’m not suggesting that you invest in kisses, but I am suggesting that you think of ways to reach out to others. You DO matter, and the other’s shyness and their own insecurities may prevent them from reaching out to you. Try to remember that each one of us is a vulnerable bundle of atoms just wanting love. Because you DO really matter, whether it’s obvious or not.
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