Paying Attention


Monday afternoon we had to take Bump for his first doctor’s appointment. He was a bit dubious about the whole affair, given some of the things he’d gone through at the hospital, but all in all he did well. Since we were near the supermarket we decided to head out quick and pick up some supplies. It was Bump’s first outing!

My wife had me attach Bump’s car seat to the stroller, just in case it didn’t work well with the shopping cart, and I figured I’d be swamped with people wanting to get a look at the baby. I mean, why not? Bump is cute 1. I have to admit, this introvert was rather upset at how little people wanted to have a peak at the stroller. Most folk’s eyes were on the shelves, and they avoided other people’s gaze as much as possible as they hunted for the items on whatever list they were heeding. Still more were fixated on their phones as they somehow managed to not crash into everything in the store.

It reminded me why I’ve hated shopping at this particular venue, everyone is in such a hurry. Most times I head in on a shopping trip with my wife I end up feeling tired and stressed by the time we’re half way through our list. I suppose it’s one reason why I like being alone. When I’m on my own I tend not to feel lonely. When I’m surrounded by people who are focused on their tasks they disconnect from one another and I find myself lost in loneliness. All those people, and zero connections.

I suppose I was expecting pushing a baby around the store would help cut through the busyness. It didn’t, at least it didn’t increase the level of connections I manage to make with people even in normal circumstances. Several people did ask about Bump, including a wonderful person working at the deli counter, but I got the impression these were the type of people who would have been happy to chat even if I hadn’t been pushing a stroller through the store.

I do realize our society has swung so far into paranoia people have become hesitant about showing interest in other people, and children in particular. No one wants to appear creepy, or find themselves in the center of a twitter-storm. I also have to admit I myself felt cautious when one older woman asked questions about Bump which I would have had no issue answering with our first two kids. It’s a paranoia I feel as well. Because I feel the culture aversion to paying attention to others I can’t blame people for not fawning over the cute baby in my stroller, but I also wonder if it’s indicative of much larger problem. We’ve become so adept at protecting ourselves our ability to make random, but genuine, connections while out and about has atrophied. The end result being we don’t feel safe anymore. It’s a shame.

People are quick to say the presidency of Donald Trump is undermining the fabric of American governance. I do not think this administration is good for the country, but I wonder if perhaps the fear of others is is the real cancer of our culture 2. We fear what people will think if we beam too much at a cute kid or make eye contact with an adult in a shopping aisle. We fear what “those people” are doing to “our” country. We fear whenever our values aren’t affirmed as “good.” And we fear being found in the limbo which exists between our cultural extremes.

In what is, perhaps, the only decent line of dialog in the entire prequel trilogy Master Yoda illustrates the path our culture is on.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Perhaps it’s time for us to turn aside from this path our culture is on, and begin looking for neighbors out in our daily lives. I, for one, and weary of feeling lonely out in the crowd.

  1. Yes, I am biased. It is also fact. 
  2. Indeed, fear of others was the fuel on which the Trump campaign ran. 

One Comment

  1. I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve gotten looks from parents just for making silly faces at toddlers while standing at the checkout. I ain’t even in reach, people, jeez!

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