I went out shopping the other day and while most people do that every day it’s somewhat of an anomaly for me. I was shopping for the holidays – yes I know it’s early, but I like to make some of the gifts I give so I need to start pretty early. Plus, I hate being rushed at the end. And crowds. And procrastination. That’s why most of my shopping is done online.
I really don’t know how we functioned as a society before e-commerce, but that’s a different post.
This is about the interactions I had with complete strangers. Most weren’t interactions at all, because I kept my head down and walked very fast until I found the section of the store I wanted. To say that I was suffering from anxiety would be putting it mildly. But there was also irritation because most people are oblivious to those around them.
So that led me to this thought. How much of an effect have I had on others without even being aware of it? How much of an affect have others had on me, no matter how brief the encounter, without me being aware of it?
We come in contact with a lot of people every day – some more than others – whom we will likely never see again. Or think about how many times we have to change jobs these days and how many coworkers transition in and out of our lives. There may be a few we stay in contact with, but the reality is once you’re not working at the same company you probably don’t have that much in common so you drift away from those people.
But does that mean the influence those people had ends there? Do the experiences you shared with them just disappear? Or are those people like pebbles or stones being dropped in a pond leaving ripples on the water long after they’ve dropped from view?
I’ve met, worked with, interacted with a lot of people in the course of my life – as I’m sure most of you have as well – and as much as I would like to forget some of them, most are alive and well and living inside my head. Most of my memories are hazy. I find it remarkable when I talk with someone who can remember all the tiniest details of something that happened to them 20 years ago.
Although, now that I’m writing, the memories are coming back. I’m feeling ripples I haven’t felt in years, remembering people and experiences I haven’t thought about in a long time. So I suppose it’s only natural that I wonder if anyone ever remembers me. If anything we had done together has caused enough of a ripple to last.
And how many of those ripples influence our thoughts, actions, reactions, and decisions without our even being aware of them?
I wish I had the answers, because I think if I knew just how much the slightest interaction affected people I would try even harder to be nice, polite, kind – to be patient when someone is moving slower than I would like – to not be completely oblivious of those around me.