The Long Hard Road

Posted: 06/06/2012 by erichblayde in Human Experience, Life Lessons
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As a foot patrol unit for a local security company I spend my evenings walking through the downtown core of a bustling port city, making my nightly checks, talking to the local vagrants, settling disputes that spill from bars into the streets, and taking my fair share of abuse for simply doing my job. Such things lead one to wonder why the human condition invariably causes some members of a society to be mired in the filth and muck of arrogance, egotism and pride. Fortunately for me the new society trend seems to be moving toward ignoring those in positions of servitude, such as postal workers, delivery men and of course security guards. And thinking about the changing focus of our society the other day got me wondering…..

Where in the last century did western culture split so violently from that of its roots? As recently as the 30’s and 40’s families lived in peaceful cohabitation with each other. Often the nearest neighbor was 5 miles down the road but everyone still knew the neighbor, even if they were not best friends. Now a large percentage of us live in giant boxes that rise hundreds of feet into the sky and surround us with literally hundreds of other people and yet many of us cannot name a single person on our floor, nor the names of their spouse, children or beloved pet. Humans are by in large a social creature and yet today’s society has us so ruled by fear that we refuse to say hello to our neighbor in the elevator or the hall. In big cities we pause beside numerous people daily, in the coffee shop, the bank, the grocery store, and yet we do not even bother to say hello to a simple stranger or comment on their lovely hat, or the cuteness of their child or whatever else we notice about them. How is it that moving ourselves to these meccas of civilization is driving us away from each other?

I happen to be one of the friendly types left in the world. I comment on hats, jackets, haircuts and children. I stop to visit with dogs and praise the cuteness of cats. I help the elders of our society load groceries into their trunks when passing through parking lots, give strangers directions (if I know them) when asked and crack jokes at crosswalks. Some think me odd and snarl at me, some smile bemusedly and move away in the protected bubble of their own superiority (Well at least I’m not compelled to talk to strangers, what an odd little man) and some, some give me the greatest knowledge I could never have learned in a book.

I often eat at a local restaurant due to my hectic schedule and often meals are passed alone and in silence. One afternoon an elderly lady walked up to me quietly and started showing me pictures from her grandsons recent trip to an old growth forest. Massive trees dwarfing the six humans standing in front of them leaped out at me from the glossy surface. Strange branch configurations tortured that way from centuries of wind and draped in lush green moss. Proud deer, antlered heads held high, picking their way through the trees and eyeing the camera with quiet curiosity, all these things I was so privileged to see through the travels of another, and all because one elderly lady refused the new rules of society and did what she had been doing for 94 years, realizing that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

It has been some months since that darling lady stepped up and showed me those pictures, and in those months I have been pleased to no end to have gained a lovely friend and an amazing source of knowledge. Here is a woman who lived through the Great War and remembers it clearly. Here is a woman who tells me about life growing up on a farm in the 20’s in detail and with a loving fondness no book could capture. Here is a living piece of our history who is often forgotten or passed over as being “from another time” Who are we, this proud, confident society, this “new generation of free thinkers” to be so closed minded? Who are we to judge based on age, race, creed, religion, sexuality, gender or any other feature?

So here is my challenge to you dear reader, step up to a stranger walking a dog on the street and talk to them, pet the dog, learn its name. It may take you a few dogs and a few strangers as some are quite closed off, but try until you find one person you can talk to and do it. Then com back here and post a comment telling me of your experience and let’s see just how much of the human experience we can enrich on this blog. And just a note dear reader, stop thinking “that’s a good idea I will do it on the weekend” and go for a walk when you return from your day this evening. Trust me, its not an experience you want to put off.


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