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Look Up: A lesson I learned in Junior High

In junior high, I vividly remember my teacher telling us that most kids, when walking down the hallway, will look down at the floor as they walk.  Rarely, she said, will someone walk past you and look you in the eye, it’s just human nature. She then challenged us to take notice, and see for ourselves. Then, if we dared, to actually try to keep our heads up and look at people as we walked past them, even smile at them, and see what happens.  I found this very interesting and immediately took the challenge.

I was only in the 6th grade and I was shy, but curious to see if she was right. I discovered that she was spot on. Most kids did, in fact, look down when you walked past them. Even if from a distance they were looking up, the closer you get, there’s a breaking point, and someone invariably looks away.  

Well, after observing this, I saw no other option but to start looking up.  This was a turning point for me, and a challenge indeed, to consciously make eye contact with people and truly see them.  This habit has developed over my lifetime and has made a big impact on my life. I’m thankful for this teacher who opened my eyes.  I remember wanting to be confident, and also wanting to see people and not be part of the problem of disconnection. I figured if I could train myself to look up and smile, as my teacher suggested, this small action could make the difference in someone else life.  Little did I know, it would become a habit to completely shape my own life, for the better.

There are so many gifts from truly looking at people in the eye.  You can see them, and they see you, and that connection is important.  

I remember amplifying the challenge when I entered the workforce after college.  Now, instead of walking through halls, I was riding in elevators and working in high rise buildings.  Have you ever broken the secret elevator code and actually looked at the people you’re riding with? It’s truly an experience.  Sometimes, just for fun, I’d even face away from the door, standing opposite the status quo, just to really change things up. The results — a whole new perspective, one where you realize you aren’t alone walking through this world.  

We are living life with people, each unique and important. These people have eyes, bright eyes, that long for connection, a smile, a glance, that shows we are in this together.  So if you’ve been missing out, I challenge you to LOOK UP and see who you’re sharing this world with. Connect. Smile. Make a difference. I promise that in doing so, you’ll gain confidence and joy that comes from connection.

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