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Hollywood Inspires Ritual
I recently saw the movie, “Invictus,” with Morgan Freeman portraying Nelson Mandela. I loved the film overall, but what most moved me was the way that the character of Nelson Mandela treated people. We all are familiar with his super human efforts to promote peace, racial equality, and unity, as well as his huge capacity for forgiveness. However, it was something much more subtle that inspired me to create a ritual after watching the film.
Mandela acknowledged each and every person he encountered during his day whether it was a foreign dignitary or the lady serving him tea. He was never too rushed, hurried, or preoccupied with himself or his overwhelming responsibilities to greet people and let them know he saw them, they mattered, and he appreciated them. He made people feel valued and seen, no matter how brief or mundane the encounter. He understands at a profound level the power of respect and humility.
My dear friend is the Deputy Commissioner of Human Rights at the United Nations. He once told me that the poorest people are the most generous, oppressed people are the most fair, and people that have suffered adversity are the most compassionate. I think this is true for Mandela. He knows and understands what it feels like to be invisible, to be treated as less than. Instead of becoming bitter and seeking retribution, he went in the opposite direction and dedicated his way of being in the world to honoring and respecting others: to give others the very thing he was denied for over two decades.
To be valued and respected is a fundamental human need, right up there with having enough food and water. When we do not feel valued, it can feel as if we do not have enough oxygen, as if we are drowning and we are desperately trying to keep our heads above water. When our value is at risk, a great deal if not all of our energy is diverted to restoring it. The world would be a different place if we operated with a greater awareness of this core need in ourselves and in others.
After seeing the movie I committed to a ritual in which I am more intentional about seeing and acknowledging every person with whom I come in contact over the course of a day. I look the grocery clerk in the eye and say, “Hello, how are you today?” I thank the person who holds the door for me at the gym. I greet the person I ride in the elevator with instead of looking up at the ceiling as if that will make the awkward ride pass more quickly.
I am not certain what impact this has on the various people I meet, but I have noticed a difference in how I feel as a result. I feel more connected, more energized, and more appreciative of people. I am also aware of how little energy this requires on my part. In fact, it often seems like less than the energy I sometimes used to avoid making eye contact or conversation.
Try it. Say hello. Look someone in the eye and smile. Acknowledge the stranger you pass on the sidewalk. See if you notice a difference in the quantity and quality of your energy.
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I know this is an old post, but just found it... totally agree and reminds me of the movie Patch Adams with Robin Williams - he did the same. We definitely could all do it more..
@ 2012/12/05 03:33:13 PM
You are right on point! Especially your last paragraph. I've never been one to stare away as I pass someone I don't really know (in the office for instance), but to actively seek out eye contact, exchange a smile or hello does not cost ANY energy, in fact I feel it is energy boost (especially) when it is returned. If the other person still looks away, it's somewhat neutral, but looking away or ignoring someone truly COSTS energy. The latter is like building a wall. In itself building a wall is hard work and consumes energy, but the effect of the wall is that you start having to go around it, it constricts you, narrows your choices, and isolates you.
by Michael Strasser
@ 2011/03/01 12:37:47 PM