Used to I didn’t understand the value of stopping to shake a hand. I used to think social interaction beyond the mechanical achieving of a shared aim was a wasteful use of time. Why wait on niceties when there is so much work to be done, I used to think. Then I discovered how important it is when a person pauses to spend a moment with me and to acknowledge my value to them. I realized that if I don’t pause to let people know their value to me then I send the opposite message, that they are not valuable to me, which is the wrong message because they are very valuable. Now I take the time to shake hands and look into people’s eyes and ask real questions seeking real answers. The surprise is what happens.
One night I was waiting for a train in rural Kentucky. It was late at night, the train was delayed, and though I had a friend waiting with me, I was not in the mood to socialize. I only wanted to train that was already two hours delayed to show up so I could board it and get some sleep. Some other people showed up and this one man in particular kept trying to strike up conversations. I knew he would end up coming to me, with all my camera gear and backpacks. He did and I was tempted to act like I was asleep. I chose instead to engage him and practice my new habit of extended a warm hand of greeting. To my shock it turned out this man actually knew me! Well, he knew my family. He had been my big brother’s high school teacher in Ohio! We ended up talking for a half an hour and I learned that he was there to pick up a former exchange student who had lived with him years ago. The student was coming from China to introduce her daughter to the man and his wife and to visit with them after so many years.
My friend Lori who was with me waiting snapped this record of our handshake.