Dear every person whose path I just came across,
I am not calling you out or judging you. I swear I’m not. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I have been . . . you.
I share this because of the cumulative interactions I had from the moment I rolled into that parking lot.
It began with a woman pulling into the spot next to my car, extra close because she was maneuvering her car single-handedly. I did a double-take. Because. So close.
And then she proceeded to balance her device on her ear while opening her car door, gabbing away. I made my way around to the hatch of my car. Her loud-talking startled me as she moved in my direction.
Next thing I knew a piggy-tailed seven-year-oldish girl made her way around the side of the car. In a mini-mouse-like-voice, she muddled, “Mom, look!” The loud-talker continued her conversation about this and that.
“Look, Mom. I want to show you this,” the little girl said while holding up a piece of paper.
But, still. Nothing.
I walked through the sliding glass doors and waited to grab a cart behind another woman who awkwardly worked to get her son fixed into a cart. She was juggling the strap one-handed while her eyes faced down checking her screen. I wanted to help. But. She hadn’t even noticed me waiting for her. I said, “Need a hand?” Still–she had no idea I was standing there.
Not two seconds later, I watched as a toddler reached and pulled a bag of chips off the rack and onto the floor while waiting in line at the store cafe. Only, this time it was a dad. Eyes down—scrolling away. He didn’t even gaze up long enough to acknowledge the Barista when asked if he wanted his receipt.
Next, a father-son duo passed by me on the way to the detergent aisle. Same. Side-by-side. Eyes down.
As I looked around, whether alone or with a child or with grandma or other…phone in hand. Eyes down.
A collective same.
What. The. Heck???
Perhaps someone is running an online business. Or taking a call from a sick relative. Or checking the practice times for soccer or ballet lessons. Maybe she is returning a text from her husband who is deployed, or he is making a real estate deal. Maybe he/she needs a quick time out to scroll through social media because they just need a break. Maybe the call was important. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was an urgent text.
Maybe it wasn’t.
I don’t know.
The sum of it all just made me think,
“What are WE doing?”
To our children. To each other.
There was no eye contact. There was no small talk in the parking lot, the check out line or while waiting for a cafe latte. You can’t even lend a hand to someone who needs it because people are too distracted to even hear you offer it.
The opportunities to make eye contact and smile at a passerby are becoming a thing of the past.
Everyone is looking down.
This isn’t meant to add to an already overabundance of mom guilt. Or perpetuate the narrative of, “Kids these days!”
I have two of “those” kids. And, I am also one of “those” moms. I run an at-home business that relies on social media engagement, so I wholeheartedly understand the struggle. The impossible balance. The loneliness. The need for connection. I am a part of group texts, carpools, and I sometimes check my Instagram feed when I am out and about. I have taken the call from a deployed husband while in a store. And I have pulled into a parking spot chatting away with a girlfriend, failing to acknowledge the person standing next to me.
What is the cost when we are physically out in our communities surrounded by our neighbors, but we do not turn our gaze up? We no longer look ahead. Or nod. Or acknowledge. Or connect.
I wonder how high the price will be. Will it be so great that we won’t even realize the cost until an entire generation becomes so disconnected from face-to-face relationships that personal relationships become obsolete?
I don’t know.
I guess I’ll start by tucking my Apple away the next time I head out amongst the people. I vow to use my baby blues and find someone who is willing to look up and say, “Hello!”