The Guilt of Missed Connections
June 19, 2018
Today I saw a neighbor at the local branch library. She mentioned that the husband of another neighbor had passed away two months ago. The couple in question had just purchased a house on our street and had not even moved in a great deal of furniture. It was still very sad to think that we had all seen this woman walking her dog each morning and had never really connected. If not for a family member who lived in the next block we would never had known of the death of her spouse, a man who had only visited their new home once since its purchase.
When is the last time you looked at your Facebook friends list? I mean, really looked at it and thought about each name listed. We all have those friends whose name does not ring a bell. “Who is this?” we wonder. “How did I become friends with them?” I am as guilty as anyone else in sometimes answering a friend request in the affirmative just because… it is late or you vaguely recall someone by that name having been a coworker or perhaps a classmate from decades ago.
Recently a post came up from someone whose name I did not remember at all. No inkling tickled my memory whatsoever. Curious and with some time to spare, I clicked on their profile. The post was not something with which I disagreed, quite the opposite in fact. Still, I really expected I would have remembered someone so insightful and yet, I did not; hence, the clicking on their profile to try to remember who they were.
I saw that we had did indeed have some friends in common, friends with whom I had gone to school and so I quickly determined this had to be someone I had known although not as best of pals or anything. Then a posting on their timeline caught my eye. It went something like this: Recently a neighbor caught my eye. (This is in quotations but it is NOT an exact quote.) “A slender, attractive neighbor attracted my attention yesterday and, emboldened by a twinkle in her eye, I ventured to start a conversation.”
The ensuing description of their first meeting was sweet and did indeed lead to other meetings. My forgotten friend offered to help with some yardwork and carrying her groceries inside, favors which were rewarded by a banana or some chocolate chip cookies on a table by his front door mailbox. The somewhat intimate and yet innocent activities took up an entire paragraph and were, as I’ve described before very sweet and touching.
You can understand then my surprise when the next paragraph began with my friend confessing how guilty he felt. Instantly angered at some unknown act of treason against this woman, I was completely caught off guard by his next sentence. “Here I had lived next door to this delightful and yet frail ninety-six-year-old woman without ever noticing her for several years.”
The posting about this neighbor went on to encourage us all to take note of the elderly around us. My friend explained how most recently the woman contracted a cold and he was her only contact for several weeks with the outside world. Her spouse was long deceased as were most of her friends. Childless, she was living an almost invisible life… invisible that is until a neighbor happened to notice a brief smile and a twinkle in her eyes.
We all hurry through our lives when we need to stop and take stock of the world around us. How many times have we passed by someone without noticing them? How often do we hasten to explain how we are feeling or what we doing without asking about how a friend is doing? How much energy and time would it take to share a smile with those we pass in our daily walk of life? We all live on this planet together and if we ask others to share our lives, we should be willing to share theirs.
We are all guilty of being ego-focused. We need to recognize that the best life is one lived in harmony with not only nature but also each other and to do that, we must see them. We need a line of sight that includes others, not just ourselves. Then we will be open to the real beauty of the world and the ordinary of our environment will become extraordinary.