There's something so empty to me about moving through life not interacting with people we come in contact with, people we don't necessarily choose as our community, but who are, nonetheless.
In particular, every day we interact with people who are serving us for their jobs: bus drivers, cashiers, security guards, personal assistants, and the list goes on. Often, they serve people who pass them on their way to other things, only sometimes smiling and offering a well-meaning "hello" or "thanks."
It's not that we, the passersby or customers, mean to treat anyone poorly — or even that we are doing anything wrong by not engaging more — but when most of the interactions those service professionals have are solely transactional, devoid of depth or emotion, it begins to have a negative impact on them. They may start to believe what is implied by the lack of interaction.
If nobody stops to talk to you, maybe you don't feel worthy of conversation. If you're going through a tough time, maybe you feel trapped in loneliness in a sea of people. If you're having a bad day, maybe all you need is some genuine human interaction. Who knows what you're going through? But knowing is not necessarily the point.
Engaging with service workers on a personal level is, as it shows them care for who they are and breaks up their routine, whether they choose to engage or not.
It's as simple as asking someone how they're doing and truly meaning it — looking them in the eyes, listening to them, and responding with whatever empathy best calls for. I find this exchange is deeply cathartic for me and them — and it's usually pretty fun.
But most important, it's about taking a moment to care — at least once a day — for the people all around us who are often serving and could often use some kind intentional care from another person.
In my experience, when I act in this way toward people I come across, I can tell our interaction makes a positive impact on them. I see it in the change in their countenances, if only slightly, as we engage in conversations that subconsciously remind them that they're not just working, they're being.
If we aim to treat people working in these professions with the intention they desire, who knows what great impact our small actions may have on their days — whether we see the fruit of those interactions or not? I believe and hope the results can be great.
Let's aim to be deliberately kind to the service professionals around us, so they know that they're worth our time, because they absolutely are.
Richard Gretsky, a free-lance writer, lives in Orlando.