Look Up

by Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre

The world will amaze you if you let it.

I consider myself somewhat of a social anthropologist. That’s a fancy way of saying I am a people watcher. I observe folks all around me – in airports, on campuses, at school pick-up, in the yoga studio, in line at Starbucks, or at the playground with my kids. I’ve been watching people and seeking connection with them since I was a very little girl.

One thing I know for certain, as the years go by, is that I see less and less human faces in spite of the fact that I am better equipped to observe people now more than I ever have been. This has a lot to do with the influx of smart phones and the constant connection we seek online. Our social media accounts are an extension of our socialization, and we use them to garner human connection in the form of likes and comments and shares. Entire businesses are now even run using email and text messaging, acquiring customers and sealing deals without ever meeting face-to-face.

We are taught at a very young age to avoid real human connection by being told to sit still and avoid strangers. When we are devoid of our smart phones and computers by choice or circumstance, we feel naked, awkward and lost. I lost my computer on a plane in August and had to fill out a loss report with Delta Airlines. As I was writing the description of my MacBook Air, I started to tear up. I felt like I had lost a good friend or pet. (By the way it’s still missing- small navy-blue case, photo of kids on the home screen – if you see it let me know, but I digress). That process and years of observation has me wondering- what are we missing when we stop looking up? When our faces are buried in a device, we miss out on beautiful sunsets, warm smiles, soccer goals, and other humans that may really need us.

At Phired Up we know that handshakes lead to conversation, conversation leads to relationships, relationships lead to organizations, and organizations can change the world.

My message today is very simple. You can’t shake a hand if you are liking a page, searching the internet, checking your email, or texting about schedules. I want to invite you and encourage you to look up. Look in the eyes of the people around you, observe the world in mindful stillness.

I was recently on a morning drive to Starbucks after a long night of a very awake #babyjune. I normally drive to get my latte with mindless intention. Our local Starbucks is right down the road (thank goodness) and I am guilty of just going through the motions on my way there. I flirt with danger as I check email at a red light or look down at the radio to surf for my morning show of choice. I sit in that line and check Facebook and respond to work requests and go through my list of items to do that day. I worry on that drive, I plan on that drive, I put myself in danger by using my phone on that drive.

On this particular morning, I left my device at home by accident. I chose to look up. I saw the 6 am sunrise over the hills of Nolensville, Tennessee. I watched as one of our citizens without a home went about their morning routine. I saw birds flying and noticed a new building that has just grown in our bustling city without my knowledge.

As I pulled up to get my latte, I looked in the eyes of my barista – a beautiful woman with uniquely dark skin whose gentle voice provided solace to me in my state of exhaustion. “Here you go,” she said. “Almond milk. I know you’re allergic to regular.”

Wait what? How did she know that? She has some sort of psychic super power!

Maybe or (more likely) she looks up every day as a function of her job. She pays attention and connects. I thanked her and told her that her warm voice and attention to detail was much appreciated, and she smiled a smile that I would never be able appreciate without looking at her face.

The world will amaze you if you let it.

It’s incredible what we see when we interact with others and our surroundings in mindful ways. Look up. It’s totally worth it and more fulfilling than anything your tiny devices can provide.