My dental hygienist is very good at what she does. I feel she would be very good at whatever she chose to do. I think I take care of my teeth better than most and I'm still regularly disappointed with myself after each visit. That is, until this last visit.
I'll call her Clara.
Clara is generally talkative, especially around other talkative types. Our common topics of conversation before today were about teeth and good places to eat around Portland. Clara is quite the foodie. Her tastes are varied. I had asked her about another place to eat in Portland and she immediately offered Le Pigeon which was coincidentally the exact restaurant one of my good friends had recommended. They must be doing something right.
I was told to, if I was of a curious mind and slightly brave heart, try the sweet bread there. I'll have to check it out.
At the time of writing this, I am currently planning my older sister's 50th birthday party and I settled on bringing in a chef to my other sister's house. When my siblings and I were in our early twenties, my parents treated us to two weeks in Italy split between Rome and Florence. Both were magical places. Both made me feel part of something much bigger than myself. I love connecting with that feeling and hope that this celebration can help create another moment like that.
Anyway, the topic of Italy sparked another recommendation but she couldn't recall the name. She went to her phone to try and retrieve it. As she was scrolling through one of her apps I told her of my project: Two Important Things.
Upon asking her what her two important things were, she lit up and said she loved the idea and wanted a moment to think about her answer. In the meantime, she found the Italian restaurant she loved: Renata. Again, this was a restaurant anther friend had recommended. Serendipity!
The first thing that came to her mind as an important thing for the world to consider was being aware of your surroundings.
She recalled some memories of others that will talk and talk about whatever it is on their mind but didn't pay attention to non-verbal cues that perhaps suggested they should give someone else their chance to also be self-expressed. She said that she always makes it a point to look for cues and verbally ask if someone else wants to pitch in or take over if a cue warrants that kind of response.
I had to choose my times to respond because of the work being done in my mouth but we made it flow pretty well. I asked her if what she was describing could also be called "staying or being present". She immediately nodded her head although she added that the specific important thing was to be present to other people - not necessarily present to buildings, objects or inanimate objects.
She knew she needed to add context and as I zoned in on her voice and zoned out from the work in my mouth, I thought briefly, "I sure hope she doesn't lose track of what is going in in there like I am." Trust is so important while in a dentist's chair asking for them to move their thoughts to something other than what is going on in my mouth.
She has a friend that must get the "perfect picture" on her device. A lot of time and effort goes into staging a shot. Not only that, the camera is kept nearby in case a "special moment" needs to be captured. Clara sighed as she shared that she didn't understand the drive to document life so closely with digital (or other physical) memories. She would rather smile and take in the moment, cherishing it.
Another friend of hers is unfortunately going through a divorce. Her friend has kept her Facebook page full of wonderful, delightful pictures that hid the pain going on in the background. This friend found herself purposefully constructing a false narrative through her denial. Only now was she facing the truth and looking at making some hard decisions.
Capturing the moment in pictures and painting a picture of reality that isn't tied to the present is a form of denial. The present is occurring. The past is gone. The future never arrives.
Clara acknowledged the beauty of my idea - removing strangers from our lives by finding a human connection with them. She opened up and shared a story about a former boyfriend of hers (a relationship that ended over 15 years ago). He was in a bad spot recently.
He suffered from PTSD after serving in the military and couldn't hold down a job.
By the way, thank you very much for serving for those of you out there that have - I truly respect your sacrifices for the rest of us. At the same time I detest the idea of war and the war machines that are in place and the warmongers behind them.
He had a lot of healing to do and his family of origin was not a safe place in which to do it. Clara approached her husband about giving him a space in their garage. Clara's husband had the natural initial reaction of, "there's no way an ex-boyfriend of my wife lives with us," but Clara reminded him of something that she always held important - do a kind thing daily. Some may call it a "random act of kindness" (ROAK). She requested that he look at it as a supercharged one of those. He thought it over and agreed. She picked a good man as a husband.
Two years later, he still lives with them in his private garage apartment. He has his own space to retire to when he's feeling anti-social and he has a family indoors when he's feeling open and available. Through this act of kindness he settled in and re-created something that had been missing for him for decades - family. Clara's act of kindness set the foundation for healing. He now has a part-time job and is noticeably more warm and social. Clara's small children call him uncle and her husband has made a new friend.
Human beings are social creatures. Remove them from social circles and they wither. They become cynical. They create behaviors based off of beliefs that they don't belong which contributes to others actually saying or feeling that they don't belong through their anti-social behavior. They forget simple courtesies and communications that allow them to be part of something larger than themselves.
It is my belief that most of the hate and evil in this world comes from people that feel pushed out, ostracized, left out or ridiculed. In short, not belonging.
What if we could eliminate this feeling of being left out through regular checking in? What if we reduced the number of people in the world that felt like outsiders? Would we then reduce hate? Would we then reduce violence? I'm no scientist (have you all figured that out yet?), but that makes logical sense to me.
And you are the one to make this happen. I am too. We all are. This responsibility doesn't land with the religious and the non-profits. Thank goodness they exist, but they exist because of the ongoing need for this work. I say we give them some competition! Let's all take up the reigns and let a stranger know they are a valuable human being and that we have a lot in common.
Do the work each and every day and you will reap the benefits.
I would love to hear from you. You can follow the Contact link at the bottom of the page or reach out to me on Instagram at @twoimportantthingsofficial.
Namaste and all that good stuff.