One of the things that I do every day is to look people in the eye. Everyone I meet, I look them in the eye. Not out of suspicion. But to seek a connection of humanity.
I often smile when eyes meet. That’s a little harder now that we’re all wearing masks in public to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and the associated disease and conditions it produces, Covid-19. So I try to make my eyes smile. Which is harder. But still worth it.
It is important to look people in the eye, to make eye contact, to tell them: “I recognize you as another person. I respect your presence. I honor your struggles and joys, whatever they are.”
That is how you be discriminately indiscriminate. Once you get in the habit of acknowledging the humanity of other people, you can even advance to celebrating it. And while it is also harder to hold discussions through the mute cloth of a mask, it is still worth it.
Ask how someone’s day is going. That’s all it takes. “How’s your day going?” It is the most open-ended and compassionate question one can ask. It says nothing about money or race or social status. It opens the conversation up for you to listen, to hear, and to acknowledge the worth of that person. Indiscriminately.
The word indiscriminate means “done at random or without careful judgment.” Perhaps you’ve never paused to consider that definition. I’m asking you to do that now. Because random meetings are the best opportunity to get outside your own bubble. Over time, you will find, as I have, that the prejudicial habits of our minds are persistent. It takes both courage and commitment to let down your personal guard and be vulnerable enough to ask the question, “How’s your day going?”
So you have to discriminate against those instincts that hold you back. They might be old or present racial or cultural fears. There might be fears or suspicion of strangers. So you have to discriminate in your own mind to separate those “careful judgments” from your action and behavior.
Being discriminately indiscriminate is actually nothing more than being a good person. Someone to trust even when society conclusively compels you to draw back, pull in, protect yourself from every danger.
This is not to say that you should be wanton in hour behavior, or incautious in protecting your own health. But you’d be surprised how much talking to another person actually reminds you both what social distancing actually means. It is simple courtesy, and sane behavior to stand back from someone else.
But don’t ignore them. Don’t let this pandemic crush the humanity of our society. Then it is only the yellers who triumph, the selfish who get heard, and the dividers who conquer.
Discriminate from all that. Be indiscriminate in your interactions with other human beings. Seek them out. Be nice. Invite them into your world even if sharing social space has its limits.
It is much harder through social media to be discriminately indiscriminate. Even a poorly handled joke can be misconstrued. Pointing out even basic of obvious facts can be taken as a threat. So this is not about being indiscriminate on the Internet. We can talk about that another time.
But through channels of direct, humane exchanges will emerge a better feeling about the world, and about yourself. And that’s a good place to start.