In a world that is constantly “connected” by the use of technology, there has never been an atmosphere filled with more disconnect. Each day I count the number of people on their phones in places filled with opportunity to learn about someone new. No one sits at a bus stop and talks to the person next to them anymore. I find it fascinating to learn about people, yet it seldom happens. The problem is no one would ever know my hidden desire to talk to strangers because no one looks up from their screen to ask. I want to have the courage to walk over to a stranger and start a conversation, but I am constantly discouraged when I see twelve out of fourteen people on their phones in the hallway. Why do so many people avoid the opportunity to at least say hello to one another?
Five days ago on my walk to main campus I kept my eyes open on the people walking towards me. Most of the people crossing the bridge to east campus had their heads down and eyes glued to their phones, except one. He was further away but we locked eyes and as a natural reflex I smiled and immediately looked down. Usually, if I smile at someone they either don’t notice or are close enough for me to pass them shortly after without them seeing me continue to smile. This man, however, saw me continue to smile as I looked down in an attempt to mask my satisfaction with our exchange in acknowledgment of each other. Then he unexpectedly said “Hey, how are you?”, to which I replied, “Good”, and continued walking. This may seem insignificant to most people, but to me it meant more; It meant that there are still people willing to look up and ask a random stranger how they are doing, it meant that there are other students who want to connect with each other and build our campus community, and meant that he cared enough to ignore his phone and acknowledge me. His comment was all I needed that day to remind me of the reasons why I love my school.
So, to the random stranger who looked up and said hello on Friday, thank you.