Life is made up of a smorgasbord of events, both big and small.
While the big events, both sad and joyous, always loom in our memory, it’s the small everyday human interactions that provide the little moments that hold us together.
Seventeenth century English poet, priest and lawyer John Donne penned the lines: “No man is an island, entire of itself.”
For most of us—barring the odd hermit who is happiest on an isolated desert island—Donne’s words are exactly right. We don’t live in a vacuum, because we are surrounded by people, some we know and others who are complete strangers.
And those little everyday interactions are a mix of responding to people we know in our workplace or home, and the prosaic exchanges at the butcher’s, the baker’s and the fruit shop or the deli.
Standing in a queue to buy a roast or pay for the fruit, do you get into pleasantries with the person in front of you? Or do you take the time to have a brief chat with the person serving you?
Most people working in retail exchange at least a few words with the customer, because that’s what they are trained to do. I make it a point to respond pleasantly, and I have noticed that if I happen to be wearing a T-shirt advertising the radio station where I work, or the latest musical I have seen, that’s often an automatic conversation starter.
I recall a young girl on the non-automatic supermarket checkout who saw my Strictly Ballroom T-shirt and immediately wanted to know if I had enjoyed this Australian musical, and did I think her mother would like it because she wanted to buy her a very special birthday present.
I took great pleasure in assuring her that it would be a perfect gift for Mum. My memory of that exchange is that, as I walked away, I had given a moment of my time that helped someone else, and left her with a big smile on her young face.
While we may not always feel like responding to the “Hello, how are you?” automatic questions we get from our checkout people, it’s worth making the effort because this is the social glue that helps our society move along and maintains some human interaction.
In these days of emailing the person at the next desk, or texting your spouse so that they actually remember what you tell them, we shouldn’t overlook the power of simple, pleasant human interaction.
Jesus was pretty big on interpersonal communication, and when he spoke, people listened.
“Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John chapter 8,verse 12).
Great words to remember as we go about our own daily human interactions…