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  • Writer's pictureApril Nunes Tucker

Where's the human connection gone?

Once in a while you happen across an experience that changes your perception of being. These types of experiences (for me) often start with a book or a song or an encounter with another. Usually I get a hit of being “rocked to the core” and then like ripples of a stone thrown into the water changes emerge…changes in the way I interact with others and with myself.

Yesterday I had such an experience. I need to provide you with a little bit of background. I live in a small town called Harpenden. This town sits about 30 miles north of London so it can safely be classified as suburban-commuter-land…suburban-commuter-land laced with lots and lots of dollars (or rather pounds). Money is evident here. There is an excess of Range Rovers, Canada Goose coats and well manicured nails. Some might think this town soul-less but its not.

Yesterday my view of this town was turned on its head. Yesterday I shared that wonderful experience of human connection with Harpenden’s high street shoppers. A few doors down from Mint Velvet my friend Nicola and I set up chairs and hula hoops (don’t worry, I’ll explain!) out on the pavement along with a cardboard sign that read: “Where has the human connection gone? Share one minute of eye contact to find out.” The wording for the sign required to set up the “eye contact experiment” was not chosen by me; it was provided by a group based in Australia called The Liberators International and here is a link to their rationale for the experiment:

In brief, Nicola and I walked onto the high street carrying a pair of chairs each and two hula hoops. I stood in one hoop and waited for someone, anyone to come and stand in the other hoop that was placed opposite me. Nicola sat in one of the chairs and did the same, waiting for a willing soul to come and look into her eyes for one minute…a minute of looking into a stranger’s eyes without expectation, desire or judgement. The challenge I set for myself was to be as open, as soft, as accepting as possible and I was lucky enough to have had an old man share a minute with me who did the same. It brought tears to my eyes. This man, pushing his walker approached me and said something like, “Does this have to do with all of us being so wrapped up in the internet and computers?” Nicola answered him and said “yes”.

“Well done” he said; “I was a programmer for many many years.”

So I asked him, “How about it? One minute, just you and me.”

“Okay” he answered.

He couldn’t push his walker over the edge of the hula hoop so I stepped out of mine and faced him. We stood looking into each other’s eyes and I saw him there… so soft, so open, so very lovely. I touched his hand that held one handle of his walker, told him he was lovely and thanked him. Then he turned and walked away. I had tears in my eyes. I watched him as he went and sat at the bus stop nearby. He held his head in his hands for a long while as he waited for the bus. When the bus came I watched him board it and waited, watching to see if he would look for me again as it drove past but he didn’t.

This is life. These moments. Every moment can be powerful like this one was for me if we pay attention.

I must admit I was nervous setting up this experiment but the reward has been great. Another encounter made me love the humanity in this suburban-commuter-land. A man with a great white beard and piercing blue eyes approached. I coaxed him into one of the hoops. He didn’t want to look. He wanted to talk. After he talked for a bit telling me he was a pensioner…I asked him if he would try 20 seconds just looking, no talking.

He complied and shortly then asked me, “What do you see?”

I said, “I see a kind man.”

“Oh” he said. “I’ve have tried to be kind my whole life.”

How touching!

This was real stuff! Yes, it was a contrived exercise but people went for it. No hiding. No bullshit. Real human connection. THANK YOU!! It’s about time!

But what I’ve really learned is that it’s about time I made time to really look, to really be present with others whenever I can. Today I smiled at a lady in the grocery store (a ripple of change taking hold in me from yesterday’s events); she smiled back. Its small stuff but has shifted my perspective and I’m thankful for it.

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