If the selfie can sometimes be a power move, not everyone is a fan.
“I wish you could see yourself through my eyes,” I tell a friend who loathes selfies and will only take them under duress to humor me, never to post on social media as they don’t use it. To show them what I mean, I snap a few candid portraits that convey their easy going nature, quick wit, and all-encompassing kindness. But because they are self-effacing introverts, they frown at my pictures, unable to see what I see, and I suddenly feel like an intruder.
It’s a strange situation to be in, that of giving another human a guided tour of their own self as seen through another pair of eyes. That’s one way of trying to let them know how grateful you are for their steadfast and supportive presence in your life.
But in this particular case, my friend’s humility precludes any reaction beside a beaming smile, which is impossible to decipher as sunniness is their trademark. What that smile meant, I will never know; hopefully, the message hit home.
“Thank you for being here, you’ve done so much more than you’ll ever know,” I wanted to say, but of course I couldn’t find the words.
Human decency should never go unacknowledged.
Much as it can be awkward to tell someone how much you appreciate them, it can be awkward to hear, too, but shared awkwardness often results in joy.
That “Aha!” moment when we realize we’re reflecting each other’s clumsiness is priceless and brimming with comic relief. Shared laughter can dispel unease and bring us closer together, revealing us to ourselves in the process.
After losing five years of my life to major depressive disorder, I still have many blind spots about my ability to communicate on a personal level. During that time, my sense of self went missing, I lost sight of what made me me, and a year after choosing to live, I’m still putting the pieces back together. Many of them have changed shape, some don’t fit anymore.
The mechanics of life frequently puzzle me, words sometimes elude me, but I’m in awe of anyone generous enough to take my confusion and shortcomings in their stride without judgment. For the longest time, the page was the only mirror I had; it is where I relearned how to do human again, word by word.
Until people appeared.
We humans are at our best when we empower one another.
As individualism and greed continue to erode fellow feeling, forging a deep, meaningful connection with another person is as rare as it is life-affirming. This is the reason I feel compelled to acknowledge and underline it whenever it happens rather than take it for granted.
Expressing gratitude is a small yet meaningful way to restore a little gentleness in a world that desperately needs more. Seeing a fellow human in pain and offering them a hand to hold is a revolutionary act that calls for the ability to put someone else’s needs before our own.
In the age of personal branding and manipulative exchanges, anyone who values the love they give over the love they receive is a felicitous anomaly. And those who do so are seldom aware of the impact they have on others, which is why they deserve recognition for inspiring the rest of us to do and be the best we can.
Empathy and gratitude are within everybody’s reach and they can heal the world, one person at a time.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.