I couldn’t help noticing recently how many people are completely unable to say ‘hi’, ‘good morning’ or ‘lovely day’ anymore.
Down by the River Side!
A few weeks ago we were walking up the side of a river that was busy splashing over rocks and hurtling down to reach the sea. There was a path alongside the river that slowly followed the river upstream and then across a couple of wooden bridges to an old Victorian house nestled in the valley. Hot soup, cups of tea and cream teas were all a welcome break. Beautiful scenery, the bright green of the early leaves in Spring, the trees only just showing bud, the sound of water crashing over the grey rocks of the valley and the smell of wild garlic.
We passed quite a few other people along the path, some coming down, others were overtaking us! There would be that moment when we would look at each other and say ‘morning’, ‘lovely day’ ‘isn’t it beautiful’ etc. Well the problem was that most of the other people couldn’t handle this! They didn’t look at us, they didn’t say hi or good morning. Some managed a grunt after we forced the issue by wishing them a ‘good morning!’ whether they wanted one or not!
Down by the Lake Side!
The following week I was backpacking in the Lake District (yes even at my age!). We were walking around Lake Derwent and we went up hills and down, through woods and across marshes as well as walking along the shoreline. We met quite a few people along the way. Well that isn’t quite true. There were zombies by the Lake as well. We would often stop and stand to the side of the path so that the lightweight walkers could get past our rucksacks. I’m sure someone will make it a legal requirement that rucksacks must have signs displayed stating ‘wide load’ and ‘warning – rucksack may stop suddenly’ (sorry – just adding a bit of sarcasm in there!). We would stand to the side and make a comment about our slowness, or the ‘beautiful Lake’, or ‘looks like the rain is holding off’ or even just admit that we need to stop and have a rest!
Most of the walkers and campers that we met had a real difficulty in acknowledging us. I’m not sure whether we were invisible, they thought we were wierdos or perhaps they should have gone to Spec-savers. Hang on a minute – we have all just struggled to climb up this whopping great hill, are sweating like a couple of old pit ponies and you can’t even look me in the eye with that ‘wow, we made it’ expression! Often there would be no reply, no ‘thank you for letting us get passed your big rucksack’. Nope – not a dickey bird! Do you think they saw us? Maybe they were going through a really difficult time and their mind was lost in deep thought? Maybe they have been told not to talk to strangers – and maybe I did look pretty strange to them! Maybe they don’t like me? Perhaps they are feeling scared and intimidated – nah, that can’t be it. In the end I can only conclude that there are zombies by the Lake!
Is this a sign of our times – all the social media and virtual friendships that turn our ‘youth’ into zombies so they are unable to greet fellow travelers along the path? Youth, young people! Heck no! – this was the oldies, the people my age who should know better! We, who in our youth would wave at cars and trains that overtook us. We were brought up by a generation of adults that would look you in the eye when out on a walk and wish you a good day! It was as if we were all hiding under a cloak of invisibility. Either that or I am getting very old and seeing the past with rose tinted spectacles!
Travelling back home we stopped at a service station on the M5 and I was just waiting for the rest of my family when up came a couple of yobbos to say hello. Actually it was just a couple of Y10 lads from my previous school. If they were the rude, ignorant youth of today would they have stopped to speak? Then a couple of days later another student drove past in his car shouting and waving madly. Nothing to do with a flat tyre or leaking fuel – just someone saying hello and wishing me a good day! At least I like to think that was what he was saying!
Brighten up someones day!
Maybe I just look like some weirdo, some loser, someone so desperate for friends that he says ‘hi’ to people who are out walking. I don’t think so – it’s more about people sharing an experience. I was also not walking on my own either – so I didn’t need to talk to every passer-by because I am a lonely loser with no friends. At the end of the holiday the miserable adults scored pretty poorly compared with the young people. I also managed to get a grin from the lad who was tying up our boat after we had hired it for a quick row across the Lake. My simple comment of ‘thanks very much – that was good fun’ was enough for him to give me a grin! I don’t think many people speak to him during the day!
I was in a card shop the other day and the assistant was tidying up the cards after the customers had successfully untidied them. Next thing, we are having a really good conversation about how we hide the cards behind the big ones when we can’t remember where we found them! When we finished he looked me straight in the eye and wished me a good day! The point I want to make is that based on the last few weeks I can conclude that the youngsters are more sociable and pleasant than the adult generations – what is happening? Isn’t the ability to talk and share ideas and experiences important anymore?
My experience of over 15 years teaching is that young people are all trying to share ideas and learn from each other. That’s why they won’t shut up in lessons! What are the older generations doing then? Have they all become experts and therefore have no need to connect with other people? It reminds me of the phrase used by many employees in various occupations – ‘when we want your opinion – we will ask for it’! Or I like the other version – ‘when we want your opinion – we’ll tell you what it is!’
The art of connection
I am really interested in the idea of ‘connection’ between people. To me there are several phases – the first is acknowledgement. You have to acknowledge me before you can know me. This is the bit where we nod at each other or touch our caps, as we pass in the street, it’s where we look each other in the eye – hey I see you – you exist! You see me too – wow! I also exist! Please acknowledge me – I do exist even when you pretend that you can’t see me!
The next step is to engage and connect, this is where we talk, share ideas, thoughts and experiences, hopefully we move on from talking about the weather. When out walking round a Lake (hint, hint!) we share comments about what an awesome experience we are having – or gee that wind is a bit fresh this morning! This is enough for total strangers – we agree and are both part of the same experience – wow we connected!
The third phase is a little more difficult. This is all about acceptance. Can you accept that someone else’s experience of life is just as valid as your own? You don’t have to agree with their view – you only have to agree that their view is as valid as yours. Having exchanged thoughts and ideas there is the risk that we will not be accepted. You may not agree with my view of the weather, how cold it is, worse still you may not agree with anything else that I say, the things that I believe are important, the things that I am passionate about. This is getting risky – perhaps that explains why most of us just stick to the weather. What if I find out that you are an expert on what I should be like? What if I don’t meet your expectations and I don’t even come close to what you expect me to be and do? Well at least then I will know that even though you say that you only want the best for me – it isn’t really me that you care about. You don’t accept me as I am, you will only accept me when I meet your expectations. That is not acceptance.
Do you accept me as I am?
Or would you prefer me to change,
become more of who you want me to be?
Are you the expert in my life?
If so where do I fit in?
I cannot be who you want me to be,
you see I am already someone else,
I am me.
Accidently written by Clive!
I like to think that after we have acknowledged each other, we have exchanged ideas and experiences and we still accept each other then we know the true meaning of ‘respect’.
When I see someone I know in the street – or in the corridor at work, sometimes people don’t acknowledge me. I can easily think that it is because they don’t like me. It might be that they feel awkward around me, maybe they are intimidated by my good looks or mean disposition and it makes them feel inadequate (picture lots of people rolling around on the floor in hysterics). Maybe they simply didn’t see me or that their mind was focused elsewhere. When they don’t acknowledge me I have to remind myself that it isn’t my problem, it isn’t a problem with me. I also have to remember to say hello. I saw them and now I am now the one with the responsibility to say hello. If I don’t, and instead I choose not to acknowledge them then the problem is mine – I have a problem with me! Good morning to you fellow walkers by the Lake! Are you zombies or what?
I exist whether you acknowledge me or not. Thank you to those people who are happy to say hello – even those who don’t know me. It brightens my day, it makes me feel like I exist, I feel acknowledged, maybe I am not so bad after all. Maybe I am just like everyone else – what if I was okay as well?
Wow – ‘dickey bird’ appears on the spell check! I might need to add a comment about what a dickey bird is in case people go off walking round the Lake District looking for the now almost extinct ‘dickey bird’! I love this blogging thing – just write a load of random stuff and it almost sounds like I’m a professional writer! In fact it’s good fun – have a go!
I do apologize – my website SEO rating software thing keeps giving me a low grade because I don’t repeat the title and keywords often enough in the main text. So I have to pretend there were ‘zombies by the Lake’, so that it thinks this blog is really well written and gets a higher score by Google! Oh! Now I am worried in case people who are searching for ‘zombies by the lake’ find my blog and the Lake District is invaded by boatloads of tourists all looking for zombies by the Lake! They could end up meeting the people looking for dickey birds and then there things could get quite unpleasant!
Which leads me nicely into the idea of mechanical friends and the way we are being encouraged to do and say things based on the recommendations of ‘people who know’! Apparently my blogging software ‘knows’ that I need to include more references to the keyword, key-phrase and title. It does this without actually reading my blog – it doesn’t really understand or care what I have written and yet it has declared itself to be an expert and is giving me advice!
After all that – apparently I still haven’t included the zombie phrase often enough! Arrgh!