The Little Thing In-Between……

x-three kids walking

By Kenneth Justice

~ “We are social creatures

I was thinking about that statement of mine quite a bit last night as I sat downtown sipping my coffee, watching people walk by.

One of the things that fascinates me is how the drive within us to connect with others is so strong that it only takes the smallest little thing to connect us….

A man with a dog sat down across from me for 10 minutes and in that short amount of time he had at least a half-dozen people stop to pet the dog….and to say hello to him.

x-pet dog 1

Now on the one hand I realize that people love dogs…..maybe you didn’t hear me, people LOVE dogs….

That’s cool, I get it….I like dogs a lot too….

Yet there’s another element at work…..I believe dogs are a quick way to bridge the gap between strangers…..because we are dying to talk-to-each other.For some reason dogs have become that little thing-in-between.

We enjoy talking to each other

We enjoy meeting new people

We enjoy having conversations with people we’ve never talked to before

This guy sat down with his guitar and within 10 minutes he had a group of strangers sitting around him

This guy sat down with his guitar and within 10 minutes he had a group of strangers sitting around him

Music is another way we bridge the gap in-between….

Actually, music seems to be one of the most powerful ways we connect as people.

You can go to a concert and not even be able to understand the language of the musicians or singers and still feel connected to their production….look at the success of the hit Gangnam Style, who would of ever thought that an entirely Korean sung pop-song would hit the top-of-the-charts in the United States and other Western countries?

x-violin 1

Had I walked downtown last night and there had been nobody out I might of grabbed my coffee and went home…..

People attract people

Because there were musicians out, people walking, dogs, bicyclists…..

–all those different elements attracted me to sitting down for a moment and looking around

A downtown with no people is nothing more than a bunch of a buildings….it really isn’t something we think of as ‘downtown’ is it?

We have a term for downtown’s with no people;  a Ghost Town

x-bike riders

Because there were musicians out, people walking, dogs, bicyclists…..
–all those different elements attracted me to sitting down for a moment and looking around

But its really easy to fall into routines….

It’s easy to find ourselves spending a lot of time at home….in front of the television, playing video games, or in front of our laptop bringing our work home with us….

It’s easy to fall into routines……and forget that we live in a world where a lot of people are hurting….a lot of people are dying for you to stop and say hello…they might not realize it but a lot of people feel really lonely.

Have you ever realized that the stranger sitting across from you at coffee might be going through a divorce? Perhaps their boyfriend just broke up with them and they feel like their whole world is crushed.

The kid sitting alone on the park bench might have been bullied earlier in the day…..maybe they don’t have any friends at school and they feel like their life totally sucks…..

If you have stepped outside of your house, the statistical chances that you are around people who are hurting, lonely, sad, depressed, or going through some type of emotionally charged situation is very high.

Remember, in the United States, nearly 50% of Americans are on some type of prescription medication…..we are a country filled with people who going through s**t.

Yesterday, one of the comments stood out to me,

<Mark> writes, “I think social media has increased our need for belonging. Honestly, I think this has many negative manifestations – but it also allows people to connect in more amazing ways than ever before”

This theme has been coming up quite a bit lately; people feeling that social media is leaving them hanging…..leaving them feeling like they need to find a different way to connect with others.

x-girls walking

“I think social media has increased our need for belonging. Honestly, I think this has many negative manifestations – but it also allows people to connect in more amazing ways than ever before” -BeautifulOrange

So as our world continues to experience massive change due to things like social networks……I believe it becomes all the more essential for us to be willing to say hello to each other.

In my writings I ask a lot of questions…..because they are questions I am thinking about constantly……

This is one of those subjects that I really believe is important to question: are we reaching out to those around us enough?

Or are we being swallowed up by social networking and the busyness of our career’s and unable to stop and say hello?

Blogging is one way we as strangers can stop and say hello……I really like that about blogging…..if I was only on Facebook I would not have met any of the people I have met through blogging……

Yet, like other things on the Internet….blogging has it’s own limitations….blogging doesn’t allow me to reach out and hug someone who is crying…..

Last week I was sitting at coffee and I noticed a tear fall down the cheek of a young woman sitting near me, I gently put a hand on her shoulder and said, “The best is yet to come”…..she smiled and said, “Thank you….I’m just having a rough day but I know it won’t be like this forever”….

But…have we become to closed off as people? Have our own issues and our own problems become to important that we can’t stop and say hello to a stranger?

Like many other people who have shared concerns about where our culture is headed…..I too am concerned….I’m concerned that in our quest for newer technology the simple act of striking up a conversation with a stranger is being lost……

However, I don’t want to forget the end of Mark’s quote, “but  it also allows people to connect in more amazing ways than ever before”

That is the key isn’t it? To not focus too much time on the negative elements of social networking…but to instead embrace the positive ways we can connect…right?

And that then opens the door to more questions?

How can we connect more effectively when we are just so tired?

When we’re so busy?

When we have so little time?

When we are nervous to open up to strangers?

When we aren’t sure where to meet people?

When we’ve been hurt by people and the wounds are still hurting?

More questions….and I don’t have a lot of answers…..

For now I think I’ll have another cup of coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

29 replies

  1. In my case, I feel overwhelmed with my own life so to take the time to talk to strangers seems like a foreign concept. Between work, my house, yoga, and a few other commitments I just don’t have time to even say hello to someone on the street let alone to sit down and give them the time of day. if I saw someone crying, I know this may sound heartless, but I really have enough of my own problems and I don’t have the time to reach out to that person. I’m really busy with my life.

    • Emma, I think you speak for a lot of people who have a lot going on in their life….I don’t blame you at all….It only sucks that our society is built in such a way that it causes some of us to be “overwhelmed” as you said.

  2. I’ll give your blog as an example. I love your blog and I love the things you write about. As I read this, my mind is going, “Yes!” and “Exactly” at several places in the post. But I can’t see your face or the 100s of other faces reading this. I can’t see their surprise, their laughter, or their tears. It is the expression of these emotions that provides a satisfying connection. So, I really need to get that from people in my own neighborhood. But everyone in my neighborhood is texting or Facebooking – they don’t even look up from their phones.

    • wordsetmefree,

      very well said….and you actually hit on an upcoming article I’ve been working on for the past few days: photos of people who are walking while looking down at their phones!

    • That was one of the reasons I gave up my mobile phone. I don’t miss it. I do notice, however, how as soon as there is a break in a meeting etc that almost everyone pulls out their phone and rather than talk to the people around them they all communicate with the other worldly phone people. It seems like a big safety net, a security blanket, like cigarettes or something…

  3. I have been reading your posts for a little while now, I must say first, I love that you end them all(most?) with getting more coffee. This was a great article, I thought the percentage of people on meds would be a lot higher than that, 50% really? almost everyone I know is on something for some kind of mental or physical illness with no end in sight as to getting off them. My question, are these meds helping anyone? We still have mass shootings and bombings and all sorts of lunitics running around hurting people, no wonder people are reluctant to say hello to eachother. And yes, dogs are great because most of the time if you’re a creep you either wont pet it, thus moving on the the next Patsy, or the dog senses that there is something wrong with you and barks until you walk away. Good posts, I’m sure I’ll be back.

    • Hazel,

      stat’s on prescription medications are a bit fickle, some report it higher to be than others…since I end up mentioning prescription med’s every now and then I’ve been just keeping the number at 50% to ere on the side of caution…you are most likely correct though that the actual numbers are likely much higher than 50%

  4. this makes me think of a story i did here – this connects to a previous post of yours about young people being able to show us the way; a then high school baseball player was with his team and they’d stopped at some pizza joint (maybe chuck e cheese or something like that) just to relax before heading home. well, this high schooler (andrew) noticed a little boy there and just randomly decided to give this boy all of his tickets he’d earned. as it turned out this little boy was with foster parents and was extremely bummed because the people who were supposed to adopt him never showed and it turned out the adoption was not likely to happen anymore. andrew didn’t know this but he just wanted to be nice and it really made that kids day. i was amazed by this young man’s kindness and the foster mom was over the moon happy. it’s amazing how one small gesture can really make all the difference. it helps me remember there is hope even amongst our youth that we can still make connections as you write about. this week just so happens to be national volunteer week – what a great excuse to go out and make a few connections. 🙂
    p.s. on a lighter note – i couldn’t help but envision a young man with a cute puppy for the sake of “connecting” to pretty young women lol aka a chick magnet. 🙂 sometimes you do what you know works.

    • Jen…

      well said…….

      AND I’m thinking of doing a photo-montage of young guys with dogs and the girls who stop to pet the dog……I could fill up an album with one afternoon of photos there are so many of them!! ha ha….I don’t blame the guys at all….like you said, “sometimes you do what you know works”

  5. I see so many recent retirees move here, thinking they’re coming to paradise and they’re miserable, then they isolate, then they leave. They got paradise, but they lost their ability to socialize and make friends after thirty or forty years of seeing the same people every day. Often tell them to go out to the many live music places. Couple of cocktails and a good live band energizes any atmosphere, making people a little less defensive and a bit more receptive to “new” people.
    On my Way…

  6. Do you take all the “people watching ” photos in Detroit?

    This is why I ask. For some reason, I’ve heard bad things about Detroit. That is a failing city, bad economy and high high crime (of course what city in the US doesn’t have all of those things).

    But the photos you take seem like a nice place to live. I like the one with the guy playing the guitar. It seemed the like the young people sitting in front of him were enjoying it.

    • Claudia…

      yes all the photos on my website are taken by me 🙂

      You’re in California right?

      Imagine if I go to L.A. and only take photos in Watts, Inglewood or Pico-Union…..and then I told people on my Website, “This is what California looks like”….people would get a pretty slanted view.

      Michigan/Detroit is no different….

      there are parts of Metro-Detroit which absolutely suck….the outer rings of Detroit proper aren’t nice…and some cities just outside of Detroit suck too…..

      BUT….Downtown Detroit has enjoyed a great turn-around over the past decade

      and a number of the immediate cities just outside of Detroit are really thriving as well…..

      Not to mention the fact that living in Michigan is really about water: we have more water front property than California & Florida! Pictures I take in the summer on the water are usually my favorites 🙂

    • Very good point. I don’t live in Los Angeles. I’m about 60 miles east of it. But those areas you mentioned, I would never step foot in. I hate Los Angeles.

  7. Nicely written! Chapeau!
    Today I walked in the center of Breda (Holland) for just a minute or two when I found a purse. Immediately I took it from the ground and walked into the nearest shop. There I asked if they had seen someone who lost a purse. They didn’t. So I decided to take a look in the purse to find a name and maybe even a phone-number, but I didn’t. Just as I wanted to call a number where this lady had an oppointment in June, another lady walked in and said the rightful owner of the purse was looking for it just around the corner. I walked up to the lady and explained why I was looking in her purse. She thanked me a thousand times for finding and returning her bag. She made my day! I was happy I found it, because it could have been someone who only takes out the money and throws the rest away. If it was my purse, I would like it back too. That’s the way I always think. 😉

    • Erica….

      if only everyone was as honest as you!!

    • Yes, I wish everyone was…
      There are a few honest people out there. Once I lost my divers license in Utrecht and got it back. Another time I lost my wallet in Oosterhout and got it back with all the money still in it.
      It’s not that I loose everything all the time… 😉 These were the only times I lost something AND got it back.
      They do exist honest people!!!

  8. Wondefully said. I have long had the feeling that, in London, people are desperate to talk to each other but feel they need an excuse to do so, but once an excuse has been found, complete strangers become the most livley and animated of conversationalists.

    • Jameson,

      Having been to London whenever the locals heard my accent they instantly struck up conversation with me…..

      ‘my accent’ was essentially that little thing which opened the door for them to feel comfortable talking to a stranger….although I found everyone in Europe pretty friendly….

      any time I went into a pub I always ended up having a conversation with someone

    • Pubs have always been a great focal point for random strangers to interact, alcohol usually being a great destroyer of social, personal and other barriers!

  9. This is really nice. Thought provoking, and nice. I feel that, despite the cynicism of the 90’s, human nature is finding a way through. And that’s a very heartwarming thought. 🙂

  10. Awesome post. I love social media because it’s a way for me to connect, but I also share all the same questions you mentioned. How do you find time to connect with people in real life, and do you even want to when you’re over-committed most of the with work, family, children, aging parents, not to mention any personal issues you may be experiencing? I say hello to people in passing much more than not, but this is a good reminder to put down my phone when I’m in line somewhere and connect with the humans around me. Thanks for posting : )

    • Who was it that said the one thing the rich and poor have in common is time; there are only 24 hours in each day and there’s only so much we can do…..

  11. For some reason, people always sense I like people and care about their problems. I can’t count the number of times complete strangers and I have connected in random places and they’ve told me all their problems. When this happens, even if I’m in a hurry, I stop, listen, and hug if they need a hug. I can’t tell you how much joy this adds to MY life, this connecting. I’ve connected with strangers on social media too and that is good also. Still, I believe we all need to be listened to, heard, touched, smiled at and valued in person. Don’t ever be afraid to open yourself up to life in this way. I promise, your life will be richer and more joyful than you can ever imagine.

  12. i really like what you have said and love the potential that social media gives people no matter who they are to connect to others
    whether they are shy or have a hard time relating in person it gives them a great outlet where there voice is heard and they are not cut off in their thoughts
    the idea of social media is definitely one for the books in years to come as we see how it affects peoples interactions… i hope that good things come but i do agree that finding ways to bond and actually communicate with others brings about the greatest joy!
    it’s not that social media can’t help in these experiences… when you look at something like meet-up
    people who may never have met are getting chances to connect based on what they enjoy doing
    to me this is social media benefitting in the best way!

  13. I have talked to more strangers at sporting events than anything else. The love for a team is an opening.

  14. Really fascinating. Actually when I was leaving to go to grad school in England, one of my friend’s British boyfriends gave me the advice that if I were to need to stop someone to ask for directions while traveling through Europe, to first greet them and ask how they are and if they would be able to answer a question rather than launching into “can you tell me where (such-and-such) is?” I think we live in a culture of convenience and the niceties fall by the wayside because people are so busy. It’s a shame, and ironic, because it truly does negate that human connection that we crave and need. I studied cross-cultural communication while abroad so I find you blog fascinating, I’m excited to read more! Also I’d like to add, my pup (technically my nephew as he is my sisters dog but I pretend he is my own) has to sit next to people with at least part of his body touching them. It’s interesting how other creatures crave that interaction as well. Anyway, amazing post!!

    • Afireworkinprogress,

      you hit on a very important point, “We live in a culture of convenience”…

      oh so true

  15. Can’t believe no one has said this yet, but Hello.


    Oh and very nice work.

  16. I kind of feel like people might get weirded out by me, or think I’m strange, like, “why is this person talking to me?” Or sometimes, I just feel like they could care less. I think that it is not only about being busy or too preoccupied with our own lives; people are also afraid of the reaction they might get from other people. If I say hello, and I get rejected, I probably would be less inclined to try again. I think your photographs are lovely, by the way. They really capture the people and scenes very well!

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