Here’s What Happened When I Decided to Reach Out to Strangers
In the 1980s there was a national advertising campaign for the phone company AT&T.
Reach out, reach out and touch someone! Reach out, call up and just say hi, urged the happy singing voice on the television commercial. The campaign was a huge success that resulted in a large increase in sales for the phone company.
This commercial reinforces an ideal that still rings true today. Inherently we were put on this earth to connect with other humans. Sometimes we make life about the price of gas or work or arguing over religion or politics, but at the root of it all we want to listen and be heard. We want to be understood and related to. And with the advancement of technology and the quest for connection, some of the heart and intention we carry gets lost. Our eyes remain down on our phone. It makes me wonder what the future will look like. I wonder what will come from the loss of intimacy that a cellphone can bring into our life.
And it’s so easy to blame technology or social media or others, but in doing that it’s the same as saying we are hopeless to change. Together we can be the change. We can change our community, our bubble, our nest — and in doing so, change the world our children see. We can feel less alone and more connected. I have five ideas we can implement this week to reach out and touch someone.
1. Wave to random people all day long. People waiting at bus stops, people out for walks, people driving in the car next to yours. Your neighbor. The cab driver. The trash man. Try it. It’s awesome. Isn’t it amazing that we all get to be humans here discovering earth together? I know! Astounding! Of course I would never suggest you do something I hadn’t tried myself. I did it this afternoon while in the car. I smiled and waved at everyone.
I was nervous and felt odd at first. Why is it so weird to reach out to people we don’t know? I was afraid I was going to look like a weirdo — which I did — but so often we look like a weirdo by mistake. Why not do it on purpose?! The first gal smiled really big and waved back! I loved her. Woman number two looked at me nervously and then abruptly looked back forward, hands at ten and two. Man three looked at me like, “How do I know you?” as he smiled and gave a half wave. It was so fun I’m going to try it again tomorrow. I dare you to try it too.
2. Give away kindness like it’s free. Because it is! Do things for old people. Old people love kindness because they have already figured out it’s the key to everything. Take up their trash cans from the curb after trash pick up. Offer to walk their dog. Bring a teacher-friend dinner as they try to adjust to the new back-to-school schedule. Engage in conversation with people you otherwise usually wouldn’t.
The place where the boys go to school/therapy has the most beautiful grounds. Green, lush, immaculate. Perfect. I feel so good when I walk through. There is almost always a gentleman outside pruning, trimming, cleaning and planting. Today I smiled and said hello as I walked the boys in. The man looked up and then quickly went back to his business. Hmmm… I thought.
On the way in picking them up I said to him, You do such an amazing job keeping this place beautiful, and he gave me a quick half-nod and began watering the bush in front of him. He’s a little cranky, I decided. He was so cold to me that I began to wonder — Does he have special needs? That would make sense. I asked the school director. He’s deaf; he reads lips, she told me. And it was one of those profound universe moments. The way people behave is not about you, Chrissy. It’s about them. He wasn’t ignoring you, he wasn’t cranky, he wasn’t rude. Don’t assume anything. So next time I will be sure to engage and communicate in a way that works for him. That God! He sure is funny planting all these lessons right in our very own little garden.
3. Write a letter. Like with paper. And a pen. You can also go to the store and buy seven cards to give away one a day for a week.
I love this line of cards from Compendium Inc. I get them at Cost Plus World Market. They are usually my go-to just because cards. Their motto is “live inspired.” Amen.
Or, dig up the cards you already have in your house and use them. Who cares if it’s a birthday card and it’s not their birthday? Or if it’s a “Get Well Soon” card and they aren’t sick? Not only are you surprising someone with fun mail, you are making them laugh with your funny, not-meant-to-be-funny card. There’s one thing better than getting fun mail. Sending fun mail! So be selfish and give yourself joy! Write a letter!
4. Make a phone call. There are some natural phone talkers. I am not not one. When the boys are with me I can’t really talk. Or listen. At all. Or my walls end up getting covered in black Sharpie. True story. But every so often it’s divine to connect voice-to-voice. So often we will say, I wanted to call, but I knew you would be busy, and I didn’t want to bother you. This week — I say bother. But here’s the catch. If you get voice mail say, You don’t have to call me back. I just wanted to call you and say: blank. (You have to come up with the blank part.) I can’t tell you what a relief it is when someone tells me I don’t have to call them back. Even better when someone let’s me know I was on their mind.
5. Make plans for a proper get together. “Let’s get together soon!” “Yes! That sounds great. Soon.” That conversation happens way too much. Let soon be now. If not soon, at least get it on the books. A girls night. A date night. A coffee with your neighbor. You’re tired. You’re busy. I know, I know. Connecting with others fills your bucket in ways that a nap never could though.
Make moments — tiny little moments to connect with all the other awesome humans in the world. You can change the world. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the mysteries we are here to unravel.
If you have a moment, check out this impactful, makes you think video on the importance of just looking up. It’s well worth the watch.
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This post originally appeared on Life With Greyson + Parker.