We each have an obligation to fight alienation in America

I can say with absolute truth that, if I edit someone's submission to publish it at American Thinker, I believe that person is contributing something to American discourse.  However, when it comes to Chris Boland's "Let's do lunch," which is in today's edition of American Thinker, this is the first time I was so struck by an essay that I felt compelled to bounce it off with an idea of my own.  That's because Chris is thinking along the same lines I am, which is that our citizens are estranged from each other, that this is a deep problem, and that fixing it starts with each of us.

Chris's article is a profound meditation about where we are as a society and how we got that way.  I urge you to read it.  My starting point is that each of us can help change a society in which so many people feel dangerously unheard and unseen.  And no, it doesn't involve fighting leftist social media sites to stop them from deleting ideas with which they disagree.

My idea is much simpler: say something that shows that you recognize the person in front of you as a fellow human and American, rather than an "other."  My way of going through the grocery store is illustrative.

I saw a man, clearly in his late 70s, wearing a lime green suit over a colorful shirt.  I remarked to him, "You look so dapper."  He smiled brightly as he thanked me.

In the produce section, there was a young Black woman who'd dyed her hair a radiant purple.  On me, it would look grotesque.  On her, it was fun.  So I told her so.  She looked at me suspiciously for a moment, thinking I was getting in a subtle dig.  When she realized I meant it, she grinned, and gave a heartfelt "thank you."

The checkout gal at the supermarket is not just an automaton; she's a person, who robotically recites, "Hello, how are you?" to each customer because she's been told to do so.  On my last trip, I noticed that each of the checker's nails was painted a different color, so I said, "I love your nails."  If you're a guy, you can say, "Your nails are cheerful."  Just show that you see her and what clearly matters to her.  I promise that not only will you have a quick, "we are connecting" conversation, but it's probable that the person in line behind you will imitate you and see her, too.

Image: He’s not an extension of a cash register; he’s a person.  Pch.vector; freepik license.

You may not have time to find out why, in his gray-haired years, the bagger is putting your soda bottles in plastic bags, but you can ask him if he has plans for the coming weekend.  Or you can praise him if you notice that he's bagging intelligently.  I always appreciate the people who don't just throw things in higgledy-piggledy and I let them know.  That works with the teenage grocery baggers, too.

I do this with everyone if (a) there's time, (b) what I say is true, and (c) I'm not inconveniencing the people to whom I speak or anyone else.  Yes, it's Pollyannaish, but I truly believe it's important.  People need to believe they bring some value to society.  Otherwise, they become angry and disaffected.  In the same vein, I always told my children that the best way to avoid a school shooter is to be kind to the odd kids.

In addition to the uplifting feeling of (maybe, just maybe) contributing to the betterment of society, there's a huge reward for doing what I do: you exist in a bubble of kindness and friendliness.  You have people tell you, "You made my day."

And you hear interesting things.  I heard the stories from a guy who survived a catastrophic motorcycle accident, which caused his voice go from an ordinary tenor to a mesmerizing bass; a former bull-rider, now a washing machine repairman, who demonstrated for me how he can spontaneously dislocate his shoulder; and, sadly, the 70-year-old woman who was working her last day at Walmart because she had to travel to Chicago to take care of her daughter, who'd had a stroke.  That last was a sad story, but maybe it helped her to talk to someone who sympathized with the tragedy facing her family.

Each of us can and should do whatever is within our abilities to find common cause with our fellow citizens.  If we don't, we are going to find ourselves in more dire straits than we ever imagined. 

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