I used to go up to the canoe country quite a bit, to be alone with some friends and enjoy the outdoors. One time I brought a book along, entitled Invisible Man, written by Ralph Ellison. The main character, which remains unnamed throughout, experiences injustice and contempt as he struggles through life. The worst insult, however, is being thoroughly and completely ignored in New York City, as though he doesn’t exist. He even says he would prefer hearing words of hatred to feeling invisible–at least that way his personhood would be acknowledged.
There is one thing lonelier than being by yourself up in the woods: it’s being alone in town, wondering if anybody cares about you. Each of us has a reason to live in our own world: we’re busy, we’re worried, and we don’t have time or energy to acknowledge each other. It seems like we’re looking past each other instead of living in a community. Ever since I read that book, I have felt challenged to recognize the people I encounter each day. One of my favorite things to do is compliment busy parents on their kids, or show a little consideration and respect when I get the opportunity. Nine times out of ten it is a positive experience.
We need to let our neighbors know that we care. After all, life is a team sport. We have a community that can be a place to grow and succeed. That’s one of the things I like most about Chuck Horton and his boxers. These guys know what struggle and conflict means. They have every reason to look right past you and me. Instead, they make the conscious decision to engage in the community. They are, paradoxically, both tougher and kinder than you would expect.
So, the next time you have a chance, make yourself available for a greeting or small kindness, and see if you experience something positive yourself.