When I first moved to Chicago wondered why it was that people did not look each other in the eye when they passed each other by. I had heard this wasn’t unusual in a big city. It didn’t take me long to figure out that doing so can sometimes put you in awkward situations like having to tell someone you didn’t have spare change or worse, giving someone some change and having them wait outside your workplace the next day to ask you again. After the first week or so, I felt like I had a sign plastered to my forehead saying, “I am new in town, ask me for money or tell me a weird story.”
After a few more weeks, I too stopped looking most people in the eye. It’s not like I came from a small town (I grew up in Milwaukee, WI a city of more 628,000) but, transitioning to a city with more than 2,836,600 people did cause me to make some changes. My driving for instance has become a little more daring, why because if you don’t move forward, somebody who thinks there is no one else on the road, but himself (herself) will be on your tail faster than you can say, “Sasquatchian”.
Now, don’t get me wrong- there are a great many things I like about living in a place where not everyone is from the same general vicinity like the variety of people you encounter. I like taking the train to work rather than driving. I like having so many choices in terms of restaurants, museums and shops, but, sometimes I wish things were different. I recently found myself wondering what it would be like to be able to talk to someone without any hesitation. It may seem naive, but, sometimes I wish we could go back to a simpler life before the things and the events that have led us into the state we are in now with so many problems, pollutants, and scandals that if we stop long enough to think about it, it is downright overwhelming.
But, before I get too carried away it is some consolation that there are numerous good things that have happened in recent times such as the election of our first African American president, people coming together following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the change of attitude towards our environment just to name a few… if you look them they are there. If we slow down and do something different once in awhile who knows what good we can do or where it will lead. I recently read an article in February’s O Magazine about chance encounters and making your own luck by Ben Sherwood who writes about Coleen Seifert, Ph.D., a woman who was once afraid to talk to strangers, but, changed her life after taking the chance to talk to someone she didn’t know and thought why not try to make things different myself if I find myself wishing they were. Getting to know people is easy when you come from different places all over the world and you can ask people questions about where they came from. And each one of us can make a difference for someone else if we make the move towards something we believe in. After all, if we just sit back and wait for someone to make the changes for us, then we may find ourselves waiting a long time indeed.