What Others Need Now

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“Make yourself necessary to somebody.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

People watching / observing human interaction is a favorite pastime. I got to do this today, waiting (for quite a while) in a hospital pavilion. Behaviors abounded ranging from sheer joy to bewilderment, from rudeness to emotionally drained — with smiles, laughter, tears and ugliness interspersed. And I got to thinking…

There are a lot of people who are vain and arrogant, who see themselves as the center of the world. And I wondered… if the human species ceased to exist today, while the animals that we underrate lived on, would the world be changed for the better? Then I snapped out of it, reflecting instead on how our we favorably impact others.

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When I think about the people who made the biggest impact in my life, it has been those who showed a sincere belief in me; those who let me know through their words and actions that I mattered. And to me, mattering is a universal human need, one that each of us have an opportunity to satisfy.

With those people I observed today, the mere fact that they were born, that they exist, regardless of their circumstances, mood or looks — reminded me that each one of them is indispensable, necessary, and irreplaceable. They matter.

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Have we become superambitious and hyperproductive in order to create some semblance of outer control in place of no inner control? Are we that detached from our fellow-man? I think not. Rather, I think we sometimes forget that we can create a world in which each of us knows we matter, believing in ourselves and supporting one another. Actions you take today can make a difference in someone’s life tomorrow. And that ripple would carry into future generations. Just imagine…

If you are unsure about what to do when you encounter or interact with someone significant or yet-to-be significant in your life, here are three things to consider:

  1. Notice everyone. When you do, you recognize their value and importance. Go out of your way to acknowledge people. Make an effort to “see” them. I’m not going to suggest how; this is where you get to play.
  2. Ask meaningful questions. We show people how much they matter by the questions we ask. For example: How can I make your day? Do you know how smart you are? Are you aware of all you have accomplished today? People’s feelings can be significantly changed, simply by your thoughtful questions.
  3. Show hope. How you interact with people you meet could be the stimulant that provides them with encouragement for a better day. Enthusiastically, let others know you believe in them and their potential. The idiom Hope Springs Eternal doesΒ infer promise. πŸ™‚

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103 thoughts on “What Others Need Now

  1. As always, thank you very much for your sharing. You watch others or objects by watching yourself. Your awareness is amazing. And, I have a question. Where is your intellectual curiosity coming from?

    • You are welcome. And I agree, watching ourselves (more than just physically) can be telling. To yur thoughtful question, I have for as long as I can remember, been naturally curious. I enjoy exploring, learning, and challenging others to consider doing/being similar. Where it came from, I do not know.

  2. Your focus is so key, Eric, to what creates community. I’m primarily an introvert and don’t require a lot of attention or focus from others, but if I didn’t have people in my life who validate me by listening and caring about my perspectives, I know I’d feel very alone. I’ve added many friends in my life by just listening and giving them a chance to share themselves and in the process realizing they were very interesting–my life was made richer by just being available with a little encouragement. I really like your inclusion of “hope” in what we can offer others. I hadn’t previously thought so much about that, and I think it’s a wonderful addition. πŸ™‚

  3. Eric I enjoyed this particularly about inspiring hope in others. We have great power to influence others. I love the vision of being part of creating hopefulness in those I encounter.

    • Thanks, Sue. We do have the ability to inspire others with such little effort and time. I believe intentional action plays into this opportunity. Here’s to all of us creating even more hopefulness!

    • Thank you. Intention is a significant word and required action, Mimi. When consciously practiced others’ potential becomes realized and benefits flow forth. Much so (to your point), simply by caring.

  4. This should be read by young students everywhere. The thought that kept occurring to me while reading this was how lonely high school (and before) can be for some people who are deemed outcasts by their peers. It makes me so sad to think about. If young kids, young adults (and we adults, who can be guilty too) would recognize the worth of each individual, reach out with kindness and a simple question or comment – “how did you do that?” or “I liked your presentation” – think of all the good feelings, positivity, appreciation, and confidence that could be brewing.

    • Much of this is grounded in worth; self-worth and the worth of others. A question that lingers in my mind is: If this is so simple to do, why aren’t all of us acting on this? Practicing what you advocate would shift the dynamic and relationships throughout humanity. Let’s get on with it!

  5. People watching has always been a fascinating past time of my own also. I have quite the cultural melting pot as a venue to do so. As I sit on a park bench at Epcot, I see families, couples, adults, kids – young and old – respond to the sometimes dizzying environment surrounding them. It teaches you a lot when you just sit and watch – and listen.

    Taking the next step through your suggestions seems completely natural. I love the idea of noticing everyone, not just the people that your subconscious may focus on. And although it’s a slight play on words, I would rephrase the second suggestion to be ‘ask meaningful questions and mean it.’ It’s important to ask questions while having altruistic intentions.

    Great post as always Eric, thanks for sharing πŸ˜‰

    • Perhaps it was a naive view on my part, Dave, as I surmised that when people ask meaningful questions, their intent is substantive. Alas, there may be some who can consider adding genuine depth to their questions. πŸ™‚ Not surprisingly, I am seeing/ reading from other comments, the need for and value in simply listening. Then… perhaps contemplating if an action or opportunity to recognize another exists. Thanks much for your meaty perspectives!

    • You are on to something, Torrie. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your kind comment. And yes, having people read and thoughftfull comment is a lovely outcome. To have some of them act on what resonates with them would be even more gratifying. And I am writing that very book. Well, at least I see it as a book of considerations for humanity and suggested actions. πŸ™‚

  6. I love to people watch too, Eric. A hospital setting would make for interesting observations as you’ve mentioned. When I witness someone being anxious or rude I try to remember that they may be going through a difficult time or are just having a bad day. Your three tips are good guidelines to being more concerned about others and less concerned about myself! Thanks

    • It’s often that fine line between inadvertently judging and trying to be a neutral observer, Jer. I almost always invoke the adage, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” when I observe and consider what someone might be going through. I believe we take care of ourselves okay… to your point, it *is* about being equally (if not sometimes more) concerned about others.

  7. A lovely article Eric, for which many thanks. I notice that some others here are picking up on the advice to ‘notice everyone’; and I wonder if this is not actually the primary way in which we may become both necessary to, and appreciated by, others. Can I offer a clue that you yourself were reluctant to give? Presence – knowing our own and others too.

    • Thank you. I believe it is a “primary way,” Hariod. And I like your “clue.” I was both conscious of and not reluctant to highlight presence. πŸ™‚ I was simply hopeful that those who have been reading this blog for a while would know how much I value and encourage being present – both ways. Good catch, dear one.

  8. I enjoy people watching…there’s much to learn about life through these interactions.
    When I find myself making snap judgments about people or circumstances (which I think we all do from time to time) I remind myself they are on their own unique journey.
    I try to treat everyone I meet with respect, kindness, and compassion no matter their walk in life. I will never forget one of the most touching moments to me in watching an interaction with my eldest son when he was about 17. We were in the grocery store and he veered off to talk to an older gentleman. My son approached him with a big smile and a hardy handshake. They talked for a long time. The gentleman returned the smile and seemed to enjoy their conversation. They parted with another handshake and smile. After leaving the store I inquired as to how me knew him. He told me he was one of the janitors at his high school (a very large school at that) and he often talked with him. It warmed my heart to see him interact with the gentleman and to know the gentleman took time from his busy work schedule to interact with my son at school and in public.

    • Such an uplifting story, Suzi. Thank you for sharing it. I can easily ‘see’ and appreciate the pride you have in your son and for their respectful interaction. And yes, I too try to treat everyone I meet with the same tenets that you cite/share. But I ain’t perfect. I give myself points for simply being aware and trying. πŸ™‚

  9. Great post, Eric! A great reminder to step outside our own selves to connect with others. Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting, equivalent to β€œhello” in English, is the expression: sawu bona. It literally means, β€œI see you.” If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying sikhona, β€œI am here.” The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It means that you acknowledge the other as one like yourself. It means that the β€˜I’ and the β€˜You’ are the same – parts of a bigger whole.”

    I really like what you write about noticing everyone. It can make an enormous difference in that person’s day or even their life. By asking meaningful questions, it shows that we care. That we see that person. Thank you for the reminder to step outside myself and actively seek to connect with others. It is a reminder that I appreciate. Awesome post!

    • I was aware of the “sawu bona” greeting. Thank you for surfacing it in your comment. It’s very apt to this post. I find it interesting that in the public speaking sphere, there is what’s known as the “I/you” ratio that speakers are encouraged to heed when developing and delivering their message(s).

      Thank you for reading/taking to heart (and practice) the post’s suggestions, Celia, and for your kind comments!

  10. I find myself visiting a nursing home quite regularly now. There are so many invisible people, sitting and waiting to die. I try so hard to make eye contact, smile, and say hello whenever possible. Some don’t seem notice, others light up and want to chat. Ahhh, just to be kind to one another is an excellent first step. Thank you, Eric.

    • You are welcome. The word “invisible” ought to be a sufficient trigger to get us to do more of what you are kindly doing, Barbara. Thank you for your action. And even if our recognition only lights up a few, that’s what it’s about, right? Here’s to those who are going to take those first steps and to those who have already taken many similar steps!

  11. An awesome post, Eric. The important take away for me was the importance to “see” everyone and to encourage hope in them. And I fully agree, even try to live this message myself, after my best ability.

    • Trying is often the first step toward action and commitment. The concept of simply ‘seeing’ other people is one that several readers have picked up on and shared thoughts. So now that we have created some (perhaps) some new awareness in readers, here’s to encouraging them to ‘see.’ πŸ™‚

  12. Eric, you couldn’t be more right. I found such relief reading your words. Found myself saying…YES. Exactly! I imagine nothing worse than being regarded as unimportant. Stopping one’s internal drive to witness someone else, take complete notice and then…going a step further to acknowledge their worthiness is life changing…for both. Gorgeous writing and such thoughtful prose. Adore!!

    • Your comment/perspective allows readers to put themselves in others’ shoes, Audrey. Who wants to be regarded as unimportant? When we see things from that side, we awaken to a very different insight. And to your point, acknowledging people’s worthiness *is* life changing for many. Thank you for your uplifting thoughts and comments!

    • “If we stopped focusing on ourselves…” That pretty much nails it, Allen. When we reconsider this and choose to change the manner in which we interact with everyone, we’d have a new Wow! to experience and stimulate us to further constructive action. Appreciate your input, friend!

  13. Yes, for sure. It’s so important to be kind and grateful – I wish more people who act out of a place of fear and lack would just follow those 3 little actions. Thank you for posting.

  14. well said – and I love people watching too… and of your three things to consider -the first was my fav – but all were good reminders – cheers amigo – (high five too – for the humanity inspiration – <3)

  15. Notice everyone. I have to admit, the world sure is a friendlier place when I look at everyone, hoping they look back so I can say ‘hi’. It’s really that simple. It’s amazing how many people don’t look ‘at’ others and it makes me wonder. But then….the world is full of people who are looking out, like me, and acknowledging one another. It’s that simple. And rewarding.

    • Indeed, sometimes we catch glimpses of ourselves — good and perhaps, less so! My challenge to people is to shift beyond the “I wonder if…” stage and to intentionally engage people who we might have otherwise not. What’s to lose? πŸ™‚

  16. Oh I love the idea that each of us matters and all of us can, in fact, make a difference in people’s lives without being aware of it sometimes. We’re all so accustomed to big deeds and blatant actions that we forget how so little can turn a person’s day around.

    • Some societies and cultures openly promote the magnanimous gestures and actions to the point that the little things get ignored. As I have written about, it’s little ripples that flow outward, reaching well beyond the initial catalyst, that are felt and embraced by others. If we simply and to your point, focus on small, immediately doable actions, we can generate goodwill. Thank you for your kind comment.

  17. These are all great Eric πŸ™‚

    I love noticing people. I find that connection to a stranger really uplifting. No words, just a look or a smile.

    Questions are key to understanding. Enquiry shows an genuine interest in the welfare of the other person

    And finally the hope question. Become somebody of value. Life loves positive people. Because they give more.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  18. Eric, this was a great way to improve your perspective. Moving away from the idea that some people are arrogant and self-centered to opening up your vision to include even they who seem to have it all or act like the ‘center of the universe.’ This is a good idea, since sometimes those over-confident people are hiding a truer, warmer person inside. They have either modeled themselves after someone they know (mother, father role models) or they have felt this is the way to ‘get ahead.’ Once the facades and masks are down, there are so many wonderful stories to hear from ones who may not share it, unless you ask or focus on them. I like how you put this in three simple steps, Eric!

  19. Thank you, Robin. One approach, I believe, is to (as you suggest) simply ask and then focus exclusively on that one individual. If they’re open to receiving, you’ll have the invitation to listen and based on what is heard, offer appropriate inspiration. Most people like to be heard and encouraged. πŸ™‚

  20. Oh, won’t the world be a beautiful place when this message finally saturates the mesmerized eyes and hearts of our techie generation. To truly SEE one another, without a gizmo in your hand and mind…that is something to dream of.

    • That’s an interesting thought/desire. I’m wondering if such an outcome will manifest. Change is inevitable with each successive generation and thus far, we have all adapted. πŸ™‚ Perhaps other opportunities to “see,” to connect and to grow substantive relationships will emerge in some new form. There is always hope. πŸ™‚

  21. Your positivity in this (not always but often) negative world is so very needed Eric! I feel it across oceans and electronic devices! πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing!

  22. Well said Eric. The three steps you identify are a great way to go about day to day life, especially the last one, ‘show hope’, act as a beacon of light!
    We should apreciate what every person brings to life and avoid any feeling of supriority. At the end of the day be humbled in knowing that if all the insects in the world ceased to exist then all life would end, if mankind ceased to exist then life on this planet would thrive!
    What then of vanity and arrogance πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Robert. When we come to the realization that we’re all in this together, for a short span of time, we can reach that space in which we’re equal, each of us has something unique to share with others, and it all is appreciated. We’re getting there. πŸ™‚

  23. I loved reading all the comments in addition to your thoughtful essay, Eric. I’d like to add another strategy: I recently sat in the steam room at my local Y and another woman came in. we shared the usual “hello” and comments on the temperature in the room. It looked like it would end there but for some reason I decided to share something personal related to my own health. And that opened the flood gates, we had an animated and personal conversation after that. So I am really glad I took the risk to offer some personal info to a total stranger. It wouldn’t always be appropriate but sometimes it is just the thing when you don’t feel comfortable asking questions (yet).

    • I like your strategy, Annette. And having read it, it prompts another in my mind: Just as you initiated a conversation and connection by sharing something, people can also consider inviting another to share something that’s on their mind. Often, it’s simply extending an invitation for another to engage that can open a door. πŸ™‚ I agree that either scenario might not always be appropriate but who knows what opportunities we might be passing up, simply by not being genuinely thoughtful.

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your kind comment.

      • Hi Eric – yes, absolutely, there are so many different ways to invite comments, engagement, and openness. BTW, thanks for deciding to follow Beauty Along the Road. I’ve been “shadowing” you for a while πŸ™‚

  24. Am a bit behind catching up on all the posts in my inbox Eric. Really enjoyed this post. Especially to take the time and notice people. Crowd watching is a favourite pass time of mine too. Not only do I see people I also look further and feel their joy, pain, frustration or indifference. Life is one big lesson, when we observe human nature most of it is positive.

    • Lovely thoughts and observations, Kath. “I look further to feel their joy, pain, frustration or indifference. These are noble and compassionate actions! They remind me of something I often do in my work and listening for what is not being said. People need us to go deeper with them, even if it’s simply in a chance interactions. And most definitely, most such encounters *are* positive!

  25. Whoa! This one feels like something I’ve known all along but just never really put into real thoughts. You are so right! And I so can relate. Especially whenever I’m about to leave a certain place. It’s the people who notice, believe, have faith in you, and/or care about you are the ones that you look back on. Those who you are thankful for having met in different segments of your life are the ones you remember the most….. And it just makes sense to pay it forward to others. Very nice post!

  26. Glad you’ve known and can relate to this, Rommel. In our often helter-skelter world, we lose track of people and places that are truly significant to us. Only when we (later?) reflect on the ways in which they have contributed to our growth and happiness do we realize their generosity and value. Paying it forward is a nice way to honor/commemorate such people, places and experiences – as being in the presence of Yosemite did for you! Appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  27. Wonderful reminders Eric… I often People watch.. and we are all of us part of this giant jigsaw called life.. Each of us playing our roles.. and the more of us who can make bring us to that point of feeling included and appreciated even if its just by a smile, or opening a door… All helps the feel good factor be spread around..

    Thank you Eric for always spreading the Ripple Effect around… for you always give of yourself to others…
    Blessings your way
    Sue

    • Thanks, Sue. I may be one who reminds others about the ripple effect, but it’s a much larger cohort who cast their hopes, ideas, actions into the proverbial body of water… or breath into whispering breezes. Many of us are here to inspire and we’re fortunate to have many like-minded people who prompt and encourage us to act. Here’s to more of that “feel good factor” being spread around. πŸ™‚

  28. I think your blog does this for everyone ~ gives us all a moment to reflect, and to see areas in our lives where we become a bit too self-centered. I think whether it is through the media/business/general competitiveness in life today, we get a bit sidetracked that causes us to think in the short-term, and thus become arrogant and self-centered. When we step back, we allow ourselves to see our world around more clearly and we make corrections and help ourselves (and thus others) through appreciating those around us…and then we can make long-term, positive changes in our lives and those around us.

    • Missed this comment, Randy. I like your short vs. long-term views; stepping back versus immediately stepping in, yields two different reactions and outcomes. Your choice of the word “appreciation” I believe is key to considered and valuable response(s). And if this blog gives cause to pause, I’ll consider the inputs well worth the potentially changed trajectories of some. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your insights!

      • I enjoyed this post very much and returning to it…remembering when I first read this and it made me think that while acknowledging what is important to others makes me want to better myself.

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