I was having dinner at an unremarkable neighborhood traittoria the other night, when I glimpsed something remarkable.
The busboy, having been asked to toast the bread for an adjoining table, threw the basket of bread on a counter with a naked ferocity. His fists were shaking and I looked around to find that no one was taking notice of this guy's presence, let alone the rage in his face and body.
I felt a tension in my neck, and I realized that, being me, I had two choices, neither of which, alas, involved shining the moment on.
I could either: a) feel more stress as a contagious link to another person's hostile energy; or b) enact an experiment to see whether or not the heart of this person could be positively impacted by a warm connection.
I chose the latter. When the busboy approached to slam glasses of water on the table, as I had seen him do on other tables, I headed him off at the pass.
I lightly and quickly touched his shoulder, looked him in the eye and said, "You're working really hard tonight."
His dark eyes softened in the warmth of recognition. I saw his anger literally dissolve.
I began to wonder about the power of recognition and support. How it could be used to change the sense of isolation many people talk to me about. How connection can change the way we live and feel.
I'm not saying that every angry person can be reached or so easily converted to having a softer attitude or position. I am saying that there is a danger of total disconnection between people, if we let it be. This could be one reason depression is so common.
Maintaining the appearance of well-being and prosperity is the normal state people strive for, no matter how they feel. In the act of masking ourselves, we often lock other people out of our reality, dismissing the importance of contact and connection; erasing the truth that other people have an effect on our well-being.
We all need to be addressed with tenderness; the kind that acknowledges our human connection.
Not talking here about a sexual thing. That's a different matter.
The heart of human support is not as powerfully available via technology, I believe, nor does it have to be a major event to participate in the give and take of it.
Connecting with other people from the heart is a daily practice, and is, along with laughter, a mighty powerful anti-depressant.
Another word for this is love.
As in, this is all we need.