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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to Venture Into the Neutral Zone Without Your Shields Up

     Last week, I went to church. At our church, there is a point in the service where everyone in the congregation says a prayer out-loud holding hands. A beautiful notion, right? A hundred-something people joined together to pray as a unified group. Except that if you look around, people only hold the hands with the people in their respective parties. They stand next to strangers with their hands up as if they are going to hold hands, but they don't actually touch each other. I looked over at the choir. The two ladies who run it, who are apparently friends and very active in the church, were standing next to each other with their hands up, not touching. I find this very interesting. Why aren't they holding hands? What are they afraid of? Germs? (Don't even get me started on the futility of worrying about germs in public places.) There are more germs on the Misselette than on the lady standing next to you.  A minute after this, they are going to shake hands anyway and say, "Peace be with you," but they won't make eye-contact. In church aren't we all supposed to be family? But we can't touch or look at each other, can we?
     What has happened to us as a culture? We live in such fear of other people. Fear of what? What they might think or say about us? Are we really so weak? We have become so cold and distant. We walk through life with an invisible force field around us. Don't make eye contact, someone might look back at you. We talk on our phones in public: connected to someone miles away and disconnected from everyone around us. We text or just play with our phones. We hide inside our technology. At dance class or swimming lessons we don't talk to the other parents, we all just stare through the window at our own kids and maybe chat with a parent we already knew. We might commute on a train or bus everyday with the same people and never say a word. Or run on a treadmill next to the same woman every Tuesday night at the gym, and not so much as smile at her in the locker room. Why are we so isolated? What are we so afraid of? These are not thugs in a dark alley-way. They are just other moms or other dads usually in the same the position we are. They are usually the people we are most like. People who are sharing the same experience as we are. But we'll never connect if we pretend we can't see them.
     I too walk around in this bubble sometimes. It has become the default setting for most of us. But I am trying not to do this anymore. I'm tired of living in fear of nothing... of what? Another person's judgement? Sticks and stones, my friends... The connections we can make with others when we drop our force field are far too precious and exciting for me.  When I walk by strangers, I look at them and smile. When I see another mom struggling with her 2 year old at McDonald's, I laugh with her when her son sticks his french fry up his nose and my daughter shoves her apples in ketchup. I've made some of my best friends by introducing myself as "the-one-with-the-Shirley-Temple-hair's mom." I'd be the one to tell the woman on the tread-mill that she's starting to really tone-up. I used to think it was so weird and embarrassing when I would be out with my Ya-Ya in a store and she'd strike up some random conversation with a stranger. Now I laugh to myself when I find myself doing the same thing.
     Recently, I have begun taking the hand of the person next to me at church regardless of who it is. Yes, I AM that weirdo! What are they going to say about me really? "OMG! Some weird woman took my hand in church today and prayed!" "How awful that must have been for you! Who does that?!"
     In 2011, I wish for you to reach across the 6 inches of space between you and the stanger next to you at church.  Make new friends. People are interesting... and insightful.... and beautiful.....and sometimes lonely. A small connection could mean nothing to them, or it could be life-changing. It could be the beginning of a life-long friendship. You'll never know with your shields up and cloaking device on.

Be well, be happy and give love....May your new year be full of joyful moments and precious memories!

Live long and prosper...

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