“Some see; others are seen”
As I have passed through lands near and far on my bicycle I have been fascinated by people’s reactions to seeing me ride by. Every reaction is unique, ranging from eyes that just seem to glare or just the faintest of smiles, to what appears to be sheer delight expressed in words I cannot hope to understand. I will meet whatever reaction I get because I not only feel a joy rise up in me at seeing another’s genuine reaction, but also to let people know that I see them just as they see me.
It is my third day cycling in Vietnam. I don’t think I have ever been greeted by so many people with the simple word “hello” in my life. As I approach a village I might see people far up ahead, some to the left, others to the right, and they may have stopped what they are doing and looking at something, at me approaching. Yet as soon as one person lets off a hello, and I reply back with a hello, it can start something amazing, as people, who haven’t yet stopped what they are doing further up the road, then stop what they are doing to join the ripple of hellos.
Given that my first day riding in Vietnam was Christmas day, hearing people shout hello down the street made being away from friends and family all the easier. I don’t doubt that it might tire after many more days, but that day I did not feel alone. There was a sense of human togetherness that I feel is important to celebrate at this time of the year.
I have tried to meet each hello I get with a hello, of course. It brings a real joy to my heart and laughter to my belly every time. I am touched by the simplicity of the gesture. I feel welcome. I feel seen. I exist.
The experience causes me to reflect more deeply…
It nearly always creates a positive feeling in me to be noticed and acknowledged, even if it is in the smallest of ways. Yet I also hold a sadness at just how little that seems to happen, to me and from what I can see others too, in cultures I’m more familiar with. On a busy street or a busy café, I might feel lucky just to get a momentary glance from another being. Many people can be busy in a distant world – somewhere in the past, or the future, perhaps hardly present. Maybe someone might be doing something with other people in the now, but increasingly these days that might just come down to tapping at a screen – mesmerised by a portal into some other world.
Sometimes I just feel rather lost. I do need others. Without others I question my existence. Do I really exist? Perhaps barely, if no-one else sees me.
I know that what I’m experiencing here is because I am an unusual site in these lands. I attract attention. I am sure there are many unseen people here too. But that doesn’t negate the need I see in myself, and that I am sure is in others too, to feel appreciated and acknowledged in our daily lives.
That,dear souls, is the happiness learning thus far from a land of one thousand hellos…