My husband is a very keen observer. He will always win any game involving spotting something on a road trip. He can find (and often identify) various birds of prey in the sky. He’s quick to point out something occurring out of the ordinary. Additionally, and importantly, he’s one of the few remaining humans who hasn’t turned into a cell phone zombie (you know, the multitude who walk the streets with their eyes staring fixedly at their cell phones). Last month, on Siddique’s birthday, we were strolling through a very busy intersection when my husband was the only one to notice and run to redirect a blind man who was off course from the crosswalk and about to walk into moving traffic. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to say that my husband saved that man’s life (hopefully motorists would have stopped before any harm was done), but his cognizance and quick action certainly prevented possible disaster. Which got me thinking, how much inadvertent harm are we doing by not being engaged in the world?
At 9 months pregnant and with less than a week before my due date, I am so thankful for each and every time someone notices me and gives me a little more room in a grocery store aisle or sees me coming and holds the door open a couple seconds longer. These little things make a big difference. Especially when you’re so round that it’s a major effort just to put on a pair of sandals or pick up anything below waist level. Just this afternoon, a kind woman and her teenage daughter spotted my husband and I as we boarded the train and upon seeing that I was planning to stand on the subway, sandwiched between the steps and the door, made eye contact with me and energetically waved me over to take one of their seats. “It’s much safer for you to sit,” the woman said. I’m not the kind of person who would ever make a fuss about a seat on the subway, but I was extremely grateful. And it warmed my heart that they seemed really happy to help.
In addition to these missed opportunities to help strangers, I can’t help but think of the many times I have failed to be a good wife, daughter or friend because I was too wrapped up in my phone or computer. Eye contact is one of the most genuine universal forms of communication. Yet we often fail to give our loved ones our full attention through this simple and meaningful gesture. We are so busy documenting life that we fail to fully participate in it. There is a huge difference between being in the presence of another and truly “being there.”
These experiences are helpful reminders to be present and engaged in the world, to be more mindful of my surroundings and the people I love. I’ve been the grateful recipient of small acts of kindness in recent months, and I’m making a mental note to pay these kindnesses forward by paying better attention to the world around me. Thanks, and be kind.