When I was nine, I moved with my family to North Carolina. At first, it was a bit of a culture shock. This place was so small, so quiet, so remote, so different. Throughout the years I always saw myself as a Floridian in NC, but I never realized until much later on that Carolina had been sewing new and greater things inside of me.
One of those things was the concept of feeling known. That small town cliché of “everybody knows everybody” had its validation. You couldn’t pick up groceries or hit the drug store without running into someone you knew. It sounds kind of intimidating to think about. But lately I’ve come to realize just how much I cherished that environment.
For the past few years I’ve noticed that we as people walk this life with blinders on. We no longer acknowledge each other as we pass. Instead, we avert our eyes, our gaze downcast. We fight to avoid contact, even when we’re walking a foot between each other. If you ask ‘how are you’, the common response is a quick ‘good’ as you continue to walk away. There is no pause to say hello, no meeting the other’s gaze.
Somewhere in the past few years we’ve forgotten how to see the souls beside us.
I noticed this while running this morning, and something inside of me ached. I knew this wasn’t how we were meant to be. We weren’t meant to go through this life invisible to the folks around us. I thought no wonder so many of us feel alone. We pass through each other’s lives like phantoms, without a face. Without a name.
But we do have faces. We do have names. We exist.
I started walking at this point. I pulled out my headphones and began to smile and say ‘good morning’ to every person whose path I crossed. Bikers, walkers, workers… Just to see what would happen.
Some people refused to look my way.
Others smiled timidly.
A handful of folks grinned and greeted me back.
Two beautiful, older women stopped and had a conversation with me.
Every time though, I felt the tug inside of me saying this is how we were meant to live. My spirit felt lighter, and many of them I noticed walked away with a little more pep in their step. They held their head higher. There’s strength in being known. In being acknowledged, however slight the gesture may seem.
I’m just like everyone else walking with blinders on. Butfor a moment today I took them off, and I saw what life can be like. What it should be like. And I don’t want to put them back on.
I’m going to try not to. And I know I’m not perfect. It’s so easy to live blindfolded. But failure isn’t about the moments where we fall down. Failure lies in refusing to get back up. I want to get back up. I want to live the way we were made to live, not the way we’ve conformed to. And I know that’s possible.
Sometimes it starts with just a greeting and a smile.