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Things I have learned: Lost in the crowd

Today’s Wisdom: Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing. Rollo May

Here was the perfect community connection setting, yet no one was talking except those few who entered together.

I recently spent a few days in New York City, having many occasions to ride the subways. Being a country boy I found the subway experience disconcerting. Aside from the experience of riding around underground with no attachment to movement through my surroundings, I was struck by the disconnect among the people in the train cars.

Here was the perfect community connection setting, yet no one was talking except those few who entered the train together. Strangers sat shoulder to shoulder completely ignoring each other. At one time I observed 10 people in a row lined up along the outside seats, every one of them silently staring at a cell phone.

In my own rural community, and likely in yours, one could not imagine that scenario. If you put 25 of us in a room together with time to kill, the room would be noisy with all the conversation. We would be meeting new folks, exchanging pleasantries, or at least discussing the weather or crops. Complete silence in that setting would be unimaginable.

I understand the need to maintain some distance from others in an urban setting. That world has too many people, and safety also becomes an issue for some. Those urban folks may think they live in a rich world of culture and opportunity, but it can also be a lonely world, a world of insignificance.

In my little town, especially among the older generations, we enjoy the richness of significance. Every time someone starts a conversation with me they recognize me as a person while asserting their own significance. We both gain.

I enjoy those opportunities, whether with old friends or perfect strangers. Getting to know new people is a pleasant experience. It allows us each the opportunity to enter a room and wonder how we can add to the culture of the moment, even if only briefly. Contrast that to the folks on the subway who are working hard to disappear into the crowd. I’ll take my world any day. I’m just sayin.’

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