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Spreading Joy: Lessons from an Eighteen Month Old in a Parking Garage

When I was leaving work today, there was a girl, approximately 18 months old, standing on the bumper of a car with her mom in the parking lot. As each person passed by her, she would call out “Hi!” As grownups do, she was usually ignored on the first greeting, but that never slowed her down. She would repeatedly bellow, “Hi!” with increasing volume until the passerby engaged with her. To get a full understanding of the situation, at five o’clock there are droves of people getting into their cars in the parking lot, so there was a constant parade of people leaving and a chorus of “Hi” to each one.

We are all born with an innate desire to be noticed by other people.

I was observing the situation as I approached, and noting the responses she was getting. I was also noticing her mom’s reactions.Her mom seemed a little embarrassed and shy. She tried to quiet the little girl a couple times, but that little one was not going to be stopped. And I started thinking, we are all born with an innate desire to be noticed by other people. In yoga practices, and in some religions, it is customary to say, “Namaste”. Namaste loosely translates to, “the light in me recognizes the light in you”. I’m not a psychologist, and I could research this to give you all the data supporting my assertion regarding our need to be recognized, and I’m not going to.

Instead, I’ll do this little experiment with you to prove my point. Stay with me now …

Imagine you are in high school. You’re walking down a deserted hallway, when the most popular and most beautiful person in school rounds the corner and begins to approach you. The very moment they come around the corner, their face lights up at the sight of you and they flash their gorgeous, toothy smile and shoot their limb into the air to begin waving at you. At that moment, you are filled with excitement because of their enthusiasm for seeing you. Smiling, you begin to raise your hand to wave back. Then, you hear from right behind you, the voice of their very best friend calling out, “Hey!” As you try to figure out what to do with your hand, you just want to die. That’s what happens, right? I can’t be the only person that’s ever happened to.

light in me recognizes light in you

The elation and joy we feel in the moment of that initial recognition (even when it’s not for us) is evidence of our deep rooted need to be acknowledged. Why do you think we have dogs? This is the same need a dog fulfills in us, too. Dog people say their dog always cheers them up.  Their dog always greets them at the door and comforts them when they’re lonely. You never hear a dog person say what they really love about their dog is it totally ignores them. (Those are cat people.)

That wraps up the scientific portion of my post, let’s get back to this little 18-month old greeter. There are important lessons to be learned from her.

  1. Be friendly. Even when people aren’t being friendly back. Some people you meet might really be having the worst day of their lives, so you have the opportunity to make them feel seen and spread a little joy. This will bring joy to your life too. Somehow, as we transition from childhood to adulthood, our friendliness is squashed out of us. Have an awareness of that, and try not to let it happen. I am currently trying to get the crossing guard to wave at me in the morning. Every morning, I see the same woman when I bring my kids to school. Every morning, I wave and cheerfully say, “Good morning!” and every morning she ignores me. But it’s about me, not her. I want to model friendliness for my kids. And one day, she won’t ignore me … then I’ll have another blog post!
  2. Don’t give up when you are being ignored. When the little girl was ignored, she just got louder until her targeted passerby gave her the attention she felt she deserved. Of course I’m not advocating you yell at people to get their attention, because you are undoubtedly not as adorable as this toddler was. The lesson is there is a lot of noise in our modern world, and sometimes you need to make repeated attempts to be heard. You don’t have to keep repeating yourself right then and there --- but the next time you see that person – greet them again!
  3. Use your power for good.  You never know how your sincere greeting can change another person’s self-perception, the kind of day they’re having, and maybe even their opinion of the world in general.  There is power in acknowledging others, grab it and use it for good!
  4. Stand up to be seen. This toddler inherently knew she did not possess the physical presence to be seen by all of these adults if she was on the ground. She wanted to be up high, so she could be both seen and heard. Make yourself seen and heard, by standing up to talk to people. It is much more welcoming to stand and greet your guests in the office. Lucky for you, you don’t have to stand on the desk to get noticed!

Say hi.  Give a nod and a smile.  Acknowledge those around you.  And the next time you see a cute kid calling out greetings to everyone she sees --- respond enthusiastically.  It’s not quite up there with holding hands and singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing… in perfect harmony….”  But it’s a good start.

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Great post, just shared with the team! Thank you for sharing!!!

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So glad you liked it, Sabrina!

Make it a great day!

  Carrie Polonsky
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Absolutely LOVE this, Carrie! You hit on so many fantastic points... and it was just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

  Jane DeRosa
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Awesome! Thanks, Jane!

Make it a great day!

  Carrie Polonsky

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