Sunday, February 10, 2013

Save a Debbie Downer. Dance like you're on crack.

Just last week, I did a crazy thing (okay, so it's really not so crazy for me, but others would probably think I was crazy if they witnessed it). You see, I get strange thrills out of doing outlandish things to make others' days a tad more interesting (and happier, if possible). You know that Walmart cashier who acts like her world is ending by scanning one more can of corn (you're asking why I picked a can of corn, right...out of all the things in a grocery store? Truth is...I don't really know either. Maybe it's because I'm marrying a Midwest boy from the land of corn?). Anyhow, we all know this person. Tell me, what are you doing to give them a little bit of fun for their day?

Back to last week. So I'm driving down the road and catch a glimpse of young man in his 20's, twirling some sort of "We Buy Gold!" sign. He looked bored out of his mind. I thought about flashing him and really giving him a story to tell his pawn shop friends. Luckily, one of my other personalities told me I needed to use better judgement...that I would probably wreck my truck if I was only driving with one hand (just kidding...of course I have more self respect than that! C'mon, people!). I followed my second instinct to shamelessly flail around like I was smoking crack (I have never smoked crack, but I believe I have a pretty good imitation of someone who does...just ask sometime, I will show you) and throw up some "raise the roof!" signs to him. My new found pawn shop friend's face instantly turned from one of boredom to one of hysteria. His huge smile and laugh, as he watched my truck disappear down the road, made me giggle and instantly made my day happier. I didn't even know this guy and hadn't said a word to him, but we had shared a personal connection that had a positive effect on us both.

Not much longer after that incidence, the Torie wheels began churning. I know it's not a rocket science thought, but I began to think about how much people thrive on having personal connections with others. Some people, by nature, are more outspoken and quicker to strike up an actual conversation, but we all rely on some kind of human connection to really keep us in a positive frame of mind. Think about the airplane experience. You board the plane and find your seat before your neighbors. In my experience, those neighbors typically consist of two types: the "I just want to sleep...and I'm going to pretend like we aren't sitting less than a foot from each other" type, and the "I want to know all about you, and you're going to know all about me in one hour" type. Sometimes, I am fortunate enough to find a balance of the two types. These people, are the perfect neighbors...friendly enough, yet observant enough to realize you are yawning and it is a 6 a.m. flight. However, I find that even when I was hoping for sleep...or at least some reading time...God places some stranger next to me, and I leave the plane a better person than when I boarded. Well, saying a "better person" might not be the thought I'm aiming for. I walk away with different perspectives, making me a more understanding person of others and why they act/react as they do.

To capture the thought of the paragraph above, let me explain a recent flight experience I was fortunate enough to have. I boarded the plane, and a man probably in his mid 40's motioned that he was the window seat. I took him for the "sleeping" neighbor, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Not long after we buckled in, he began talking to me. It didn't take but one sentence before I realized he had a severe stuttering problem. I tried to act as normal as possible, patiently waiting for him to finish his thoughts. Initially, I thought maybe he had a mental illness, but I soon realized I didn't know what his stuttering was a result of, but this cat was a sharp dude. He was a retired child and family psychologist, and had some very deep questions to ask and thoughts to share (perhaps I was being analyzed right where I sat, the joke was on me...either way, it was a free therapy session). After we went our separate ways, I thought about how brave my window seat buddy was. If I had a stutter that bad, would I pretend like I was asleep on every flight to hide my embarrassment? Harold didn't. Maybe, he was never embarrassed of it...or maybe, his need for a personal connection finally told his embarrassment to take a hike. Whatever it was, I felt blessed to have sat beside and learned from such a remarkable human being. His triumphs reminded me of simple blessings I take for granted everyday.

While my friend Harold opted for the personal experience, there are many people who act withdrawn for one reason or another. They wear a frown all the time, and take the attitude that they don't need anyone for anything. I'm calling BS. I've had positive exchanges with these types of people, and have actually been able to evoke a smile out of them. You can approach these people two ways: A. they're miserable souls and you don't want anything to do with them, or B. maybe they've had something horrible happen in their lives, and they're trying to bounce back from it. Maybe, just maybe, through a simple smile and light conversation, you could be the light they see at the end of some dark tunnel.

With that, I challenge you to take the "Torie Challenge": do something fun/crazy/uplifting, and make an effort to brighten someone's day if you see them down and out. Dancing in your vehicle like you're on crack may just be one of those things that works for me, but feel free to give it a try! You may not always get the huge grin you're looking for, but I guarantee the personal connection will be rewarding for both you and Debbie Downer.