Last year in November I went to a Seminar with my co-workers to Burbank, CA. During our lunch break the staff at the hotel guided us to this nice large room ready for people to come in and take their seats at the tables while the serving staff waited patiently on the side. As we had a large group and I was the first to get there I looked around, found a table and grabbed a seat next to an older woman sitting there by herself. There were 10 chairs around the table so it was perfect for my group. Soon enough the rest of my party came and we all started talking and settling in.
Within a few minutes I turned to the lady next to me and introduced myself. I started making small talk with her and introduced her to everyone in my group. Through out our lunch I kept talking with her making sure she didn’t feel left out. Soon enough it got loud and laughter started erupting constantly from our table. I think we were pretty loud :)-
After the lunch every one started heading back to the hall where the Seminar was at. I waited patiently for the lady next to me and decided to walk with her to the main hall. As we got closer to the entrance she said,” You are very kind.” Surprised by her remark I asked her “, Thank you but why do you say that?” She said “, For talking to me. I have come here for several years and every year I sit by myself next to groups of people and no one bothers to talk to me. They usually talk among themselves. This is the first time someone was kind enough to talk to me. So thank you my dear. God bless you.”
I was blown away by what I heard. Here was someone sitting amongst hundreds of people and no one had bothered to be friendly to her? Are we so caught up in our own world, our own little comfort zones that we don’t reach out to strangers and care to smile and have a conversation with them? I felt deep compassion for her and wondered how many others were there that sit in a room full of people and yet felt lonely.Since then I have made it a point to look people in the eye and talk to them.
At work, I notice people get into the elevator with their eyes and fingers glued to their cell phones. Nobody wants to look at other people, smile or talk. I still make it a point to say “Hello” to everyone. Most of the times people take their eyes off their phones and look at me startled and surprised. When they see my smile and notice I am looking at them, to my surprise, they put their phone down and start talking. Soon enough everyone joins in and few minutes ride up to my office with a bunch of strangers turns into a pleasant one. I have seen different reactions from people. Some look grateful, some just need an icebreaker, some pleasantly surprised. I am yet to see someone resist a friendly gesture and small talk.
Take the time to smile and reach out to the person next to you. Your smile has the power to make a stranger feel they are not alone. Sometimes all it takes to help someone get their hope back on is a warm smile and a friendly “Hello”
©2014, Vani Murthy. All rights reserved