I was at the gas station this evening. I stood there watching the dollars turn on the pump for a moment, then I gazed off into the trees and sky nearby. On the other side of the gas pump stood a person doing the same thing. We both stood there, facing each other, barely five feet apart, looking at nothing but making sure we looked at everything except the other. We were obviously aware of the other’s presence, yet ignoring the other’s existence. No glances exchanged, no hello’s, no acknowledgements.
It reminded me of elevators. That awkward silence that is so loud when people are sharing the same small space, yet pretending no one else is there. I wondered about this practice which has become customary in this country. I realize this could become a complex and deep psychological adventure of discussion but, on the surface, what are we so afraid of in these circumstances? Will our friendliness be taken as flirting? Maybe. But, so what? That has been happening for centuries and we’ve all survived. Will the other think we are strange because no one else says hello? Maybe. But, who cares? We are all strange in one way or another. Perhaps the reason it feels awkward is because we are not, at least in some small gesture, honoring the fact that another human being is sharing our energy field, even overlapping it, for a moment. A person with a soul, and struggles, and a story. A life that deserves the acknowledgement and honor of a hello, or a nod, or a smile.
I did not say hello to the person at the gas station. I spent those moments pondering these things and, yes, chickening out. I’m going to start greeting people, even if it is a simple ‘Hi, how are you?’. It’s uncomfortable, even a bit scary, because our culture has made it feel awkward to say something to a stranger. We can be very suspicious. In some cases, this is justified and we need to listen to our wise intuition and discretion. There are some times that we should not get ON the elevator. Most of the time, however, it is as Franklin said….the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. So, I’m going to begin a change in myself and dare to say “Hi” more often. And, on days when I am unable to summon the courage, I will stand in that shared space and, in my silence, send love and good wishes to the other person(s) energetically. It’s a start. Join me?