My experience yesterday reminded me of a video I saw about a year ago. It also goes along with our theme of the month: Appreciating Others.
On the phone in the middle of a conversation with my friend, I walked into the bank wanting to make a quick stop and leave. But I found a group of people sitting on couches in the center waiting for their turn. With the phone resting between my shoulder and ear and my lips uttering words into the receiver, my hands busied handling the clipboard that was placed in the center of the couch area, as I signed in awaiting my turn. Ugh, I was fourth in line. As I placed the clipboard back down, my friend was asking me what types of personalities I chose to surround my self with and whether it was on purpose, I saw large feet standup and walk towards me and a voice bellowed above me, “Please have my seat.” Looking up, a little startled, I said that it was okay and shook my head gently to signal that he didn’t have to offer me his seat. But he insisted and walked to stand on the side. I really didn’t want to sit down in the midst of everyone while on the phone, but to appreciate his kindness, I sat down. I didn’t want to be rude yacking on the phone so I told my friend I will call her back. Sitting down, I looked around and I see everyone’s heads were down staring at their phone screens, while their fingers glided up and down. I noticed pages of Instagram, FaceBook, Snapchat–everyone was busy with the usual social media. No one noticed me or the others sitting around them. I look back at the man who offered me his seat. He had his phone in his hand but was not using it and instead was surveying the people around him with a kind look in his face. He was the only one looking up and noticed me walk in to offer me his seat. He was causally well dressed, with a cap and a full beard, and looked somewhat Arab.
Naturally, while waiting for that long, I wanted to keep busy so I instinctively grabbed my phone, but I didn’t want to have my head down and be glued to my phone like everyone else who was sitting on the couches. I decided to keep looking up even if it meant I was looking at people. Why do we always hide behind our phones? Why did I instinctively grab my phone? Are we scared of human contact with strangers? I was bothered that I felt this way. Nowadays, it seems strange for people to make a live human connection with others, and would be looked at as weird.
Ten minutes later, no one from the waiting area had been called. What was I going to do while waiting? Everyone was too busy looking down so I decided to do some thikr and tasbee7 (Remembrance and Glorification of God) while waiting. Shortly the seat in front of me freed up and the generous man had sat down. He was very well mannered and seemed like he was keeping himself busy with his thoughts but simultaneously aware of his surroundings and to the needs of others. Soon they called a name from the clipboard and immediately after they called the thoughtful man.
Although he did such a small gesture, it really made me realize how disconnected we are with people around us who very well may be our neighbors. It really bothered me how much we live on our phones, almost 24/7. We rely on our phones for everything: comfort, security, affirmation, directions, communication, etc. How can we deem such a small combination of metal and plastic as reliable when we can’t offer those things to our fellow neighbors in line at the bank or the grocery store? Many people were on useless media instead of learning from a rich life story from the person in front of them. Maybe I could have felt with someone who had a hard day. Maybe I could have celebrated someone’s achievement. Maybe they could have shared their thoughts with me on pressing issues in the world. Maybe I could have heard stories of a veteran’s experience. Maybe together we could have discovered what life has to offer us. Maybe… the list of maybes is endless.
Had he been like everyone else, I would have been standing on the side for 45 minutes awaiting my turn completely unnoticed. Had he been looking down, I would have been like everyone else, on my phone. Had he been gliding his fingers across his screen, I would not be writing this post now, remembering what humanity and connection is about. Will we be the ones to acknowledge others, share kinds words, offer up seats and make thoughtful gestures? Or will we be too busy looking down?
I pray this man finds peace and comfort. I pray that Allah sends him people who not only acknowledge but appreciate him. I pray that Allah makes him happy and a reason to always look up and forward to infinite bliss.
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