The dreaded, but delightful, eye contact

Last night we went to the grocery store, and it struck me how many people look down at their feet as they pass people in the aisles, not making eye contact. Why? Why do we do that?

Think about when you see young children in stores, or other places, and they tend to look at you and say “hi.” And we all like that, and almost everyone responds when a little one greets them. Why don’t we do that as adults? What changes in our souls that we no longer feel we can greet others?  Or even it we can’t say hello because it seems like too great of a gesture, why can’t we make eye contact?

So, as you know, I’ve been trying to “do a Sam” over these last years. I make eye contact, even if it’s just a second or two, and I say “hi” a lot. Sometimes I get no response, sometimes I get the look that says the person thinks I’m crazy, but usually I get this brief instant of bemusement before the person responds. The funny thing is, if it happens in someplace like a store, it becomes almost a game. When I see that person in the next aisle, there is a smile. By the third or fourth time, there is a “hello again.” By the dairy aisle, we are laughing about seeing each other in the checkout line. Inevitably, we are both smiling by then.

It’s a really small thing to do, to just make eye contact or say hello to another human being. But we have no idea of what impact that may have on someone, just knowing that someone else noticed they exist.

Don’t we all want someone to know that we exist?


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