This particular TEDx talk, “Connect or Die: The Surprising Power of Human Relationships” happens to be one of my favs. Ophthalmologist, Starla Fitch, M.D., makes a keen analogy about how we “see” other people and how that can often be a distorted view through the “human lens”.
The real gift of sight is that it allows us to truly see each other and connect.
~ Starla Fitch, M.D.
A Chance Meeting on a Walk
I walk frequently in my neighborhood for exercise. I like to walk alone since I wear my headphones and enjoy listening to my playlist. I do, however, stop to chat briefly with neighbors but this one particular morning walk I was distracted by the t-shirt a woman was wearing, a woman I did not know. She was wearing a t-shirt for a walk she had done for breast cancer awareness. I somehow felt drawn to stop and ask her if she was a survivor, too. Her answer leads me to believe that I should have looked at her through a different human lens and not assume she was a survivor herself because of what she was wearing. Her daughter had cancer but, she explained, she also lost her daughter to cancer.
I offered her my sympathies but I stopped very quickly at that and ask her how she was doing. Sorry does only go so far. I can only imagine how many times she has heard that response from others. Her daughter had only been gone a few short months. She told me she has her good days and bad. We chatted briefly about it but then got on to other topics. I remember on my worst days of dealing with cancer that I simply wanted to talk to someone about anything but cancer. So, we did.
I found out she was traveling to France the very next day to see family. As I listened to her carefully I noticed a faint accent. She was French but had been living in the states for quite a number of years. Having taught English language learners in my classroom I’m a sucker for accents from any country and I commented on hers, faint as it was. We chatted about travel and how long we had both lived in the neighborhood.
I noticed a necklace she was wearing as well. It was the pink ribbon symbol that represents breast cancer. Not only was she wearing a shirt, she had on a necklace, too. They both, honestly, were a bit worn. I sensed it was a closeness she carried of her daughter who was no longer physically with her but that she must think of daily. What a difficult thing for a mother to have to deal with every day. That was something I knew nothing about, losing a child to cancer. It was my lesson and privilege that day to see her through a new human lens and to make a connection with her.
We hugged before we left and hoped we would see each other again on another walk. I suspect if we do, that we will be exchanging contact information to share a cup of coffee, more chat, and make an even deeper connection.
As I turned the corner of my block and headed home, a smile came over my face. This song began playing on my playlist.
I thought about Janine, my new friend, the quick relationship we developed because of our connection, and her upcoming trip. I’m sure she will benefit greatly from a visit with her sister in Paris.
What special human relationship has taken you by surprise? Do you look at that person through a different lens now than you did when you first met?
Open your eyes, look at each other, and make the connection…. today. I see you!