You’re not invisible.
For months, I’ve been going to the park near my house to do my morning stretching.
The first few times, I was unfamiliar with the place, and with the people. I tend to be shy in new environments, so I kept to myself. Headphones on, music playing, I focused on my exercise routine and avoided eye contact. I didn't want to disrupt anyone, so I chose to ignore everyone. I was, in a way, pretending I was invisible.
After a few weeks, I began to recognize some familiar faces. But by then, I had gotten so used to not acknowledging anyone that I thought it might be perceived as odd to start saying hello now. Maybe they hadn’t seen me and wouldn’t recognize me like I recognized them?
Then one day, this older silver-haired man with a white sweatband, tiny running shorts and socks up to his knees came to the park. He immediately greeted me, shook my hand and started his workout. As he jogged off, I saw that it wasn't just me he was acknowledging, but everyone he passed. A smile to the guy walking his dog, an encouraging thumbs up to the woman doing squats, a good morning to the family biking to school — this guy was sending out good vibes to everyone.
It might just be me, but that little bit of acknowledgement made me feel welcome — not just welcome in the park, but welcome on this planet. It was a reminder that we are all in this together, that we’re part of something greater. It made me feel better about myself. And it planted the seed that today might be a great day.
He was planting seeds of trust, openness, and community in everyone he passed, just by simply acknowledging that we all exist.
The skeptical voice in my head, the one that is constantly bombarded with messages of fear, tells me not to trust strangers — that someone who engages with me probably wants something in return, that it’s best to keep my head down. But if we border ourselves with walls built of fear, we not only block out perceived threats but we also miss out on the possibility of love, friendship, new ideas and adventure.
In the spirit of this month's theme, Kinship, I am going out of my way to acknowledge people and grow the sense of community we all live in.
Make someone feel welcome; you may just make their day.