Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tuning in and bravery

I was laying in bed this morning when this topic popped into my head. Tuning in.

We all need to do it more.

The other day I was waiting in line at lunch and the guy at the end of the sandwich assembly line didn't look happy - let's call him Joe. I watched the people in line ahead of me - their interaction with Joe was very transactional.

"Potato chips?"
"Here or to go?"
"To go."

The next person moved up in line:

"Potato chips?"
"No. Carrots."
"Here or to go?"

They were all tuned out.

You could argue that it's only a sandwich line and the interaction doesn't really don't need to invest a lot in it - it's not vital to your success and no one is really expecting you to tune in.

While I was watching Joe, I couldn't help but think about the amazing words of Margot DeWilde, a Holocaust survivor that I had the honor of hearing speak just a few days earlier. She described the moment that they tattooed the number on her arm. When she talked about it, I wondered what it must have been like to be in that moment, where you've become a number to the world. I talked to Margot after and I asked how she went through everything she did and still maintained a belief in people. Her response was, "I never hated. I always kind of felt sorry for them because they weren't living up to what we expect of people." Now, I'm not saying the sandwich line is comparable to Margot's horrifying experience, but I was wondering if Joe felt a little bit like a robot in a factory and I was also wondering if we should expect more from our interactions with people.

It was noisy in the cafeteria, but I thought I heard Joe say, "Do you want a beer?" to the guy in front of me. I quickly realized he just asked if it was for here.

Then, it was my turn.


"Yes, chips to go."

I paused as he put the chips on my plate. "You know, I thought you offered the guy before me a beer and I want a beer too! Actually, I think I'd take two if you have them."

Joe looked at me and smiled. "Yeah, I could drink a couple of beers about now too." Laughing.

"Have a good weekend."

That wasn't hard. I tuned in. He tuned in.

I was telling my daughter (8) this story and I gave her a couple of other examples of tuning in and she said, "Mom, that could be scary because what if they don't respond." She was thinking about the emotional risk you're taking.

Be brave. Tune in.

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